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Found 506 results

  1. By William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com April 25, 2013 The compact front-wheel drive coupe class has been on the decline in recent years. Once a bright light in the automotive world with a number of manufacturers competing, the class has shrunk down to just four models; the Honda Civic Coupe, Scion tC, Hyundai Elantra Coupe, and Kia Forte Koup. The oldest one of this group, the Forte Koup, has fallen to the wayside since the other three have either been refreshed or are a new model. But does being the oldest model in this group mean that you shouldn’t take a look at it? I recently found out as I spent a week with a 2013 Kia Forte Koup SX. Doing my first walk around the Koup when it first arrived, my inner monologue chimed in with “wait, is this a Honda Civic Coupe doppelganger?” Looking at the front and side profile, the Forte Koup does seem to pull some liberties from the Civic coupe in the overall design. Thankfully, Kia did make some changes to make it not seem like a carbon copy of a Civic coupe. The front has the now familiar Kia grille all blacked-out and a unique bumper treatment. The side profile features a set of muscular lines and a set of sharp seventeen-inch wheels. Inside, the Forte Koup doesn’t have the same styling exuberance as the exterior. It's pretty much the same interior you’ll find in the Forte sedan and five-door model. It's not the nicest interior, but most of the interior bits are screwed in very well (aside from one door panel that rattled slightly when I was playing certain types of music) and the layout is very utilitarian. Space is very much at a premium thanks to short roof height. Up front, the limited headroom space is eaten up by the optional sunroof. I had to adjust the drivers seat in such a way that my head wasn’t touching the roof, which meant I wasn’t in the most comfortable position during my time. Combine that with a seat that I found to be very uncomfortable, and I would come out feeling very sore from a drive. The backseat should only be reserved for small kids thanks to the tight head and legroom. However, the Forte Koup does fight back with an abundance of equipment. My tester came with such amenities such as heated leather seats, navigation, Bluetooth, automatic climate control, hands-free calling, alloy pedals, and a proximity key. Kia still knows how to do the value argument very well. Under the hood for the Forte Koup SX is a 2.4L DOHC four-cylinder engine producing 173 horsepower and 168 pound-feet of torque. At low rpms, the 2.4L pulls surprisingly well, making it plenty quick for those who drive in the drive in the city or suburbs. Moving higher in the rpm range, the engine begins to run out of steam. This is very noticeable when entering a freeway or deciding to throw the Koup around. Transmissions for the Forte Koup are a six-speed manual or an automatic with paddle shifters. My car came equipped with the automatic and found it to be a perfect companion. The paddle shifters are a great addition since they can operated when the transmission is in Drive or manual mode. My only complaint with the paddle shifter are the placement the paddles. Mounting them on the steering wheel is horrible place since the paddles are always moving around. Putting them on the steering column would be a better idea. Fuel economy for the Forte Koup SX stands at 23 City/31 Highway/26 Combined when equipped with six-speed automatic. My average for the evaluation stood at 26 MPG. Highway driving saw the number climb to 30.2 MPG. The Forte Koup’s ride is decidedly mixed. On one hand, the Forte’s suspension tuning and heavy-weighted steering make it a pleasure to drive around corners. On the other hand, the Forte Koup’s suspension needs to go to finishing school. I found the ride to be unbearable when driving on the rutted Michigan roads as the suspension has no give at all. The steering also needs some refinement as its too heavy in daily use. At the end of my time with Forte Koup SX, I was left conflicted. The Koup has a lot going for and against it. It's a great value and has some snazzy looks, but the ride and steering are a mixed bag. The big problem is the current Forte Koup isn’t a standout anymore like it used to be. Honda and Scion have introduced new versions of their compact coupes, the Civic and tC respectively. There is also the Hyundai Elantra coupe in play which brings some very startling looks and impressive fuel economy to the class. It's better to wait for the new Forte Koup, due out sometime later this year, than to get the current one. Disclaimer: Kia provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Year - 2013 Make – Kia Model – Forte Koup Trim – SX Engine – 2.4L Inline-Four Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 173 @ 6,000 RPM Torque @ RPM – 168 @ 4,000 RPM Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 23/31/26 Curb Weight – 2,891 lbs Location of Manufacture – Hwaseong, Gyeonggi; South Korea Base Price - $19,800.00 As Tested Price - $24,520.00* (Includes $775.00 destination charge) (Note: This Forte Koup didn't come with a window sticker, so I'm guessing the as tested price here) Options: SX Technology Package - $1,800 Leather Package - $1,000 Sunroof - $795 Rear Spoiler - $395 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster. View full article
  2. William Maley

    2013 Scion FR-S

    By William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com February 1, 2013 October 2009 was a monumental month for Toyota. It was at the Tokyo Motor Show where the company revealed a very interesting concept called the FT-86; a small, lightweight two-door coupe that was jointly worked on by Toyota and Subaru. This sent shockwaves across the automotive landscape. Had Toyota rediscovered its sporty side it once had during the eighties and nineties? Or was it fluke? When the company announced that a production model would be coming along with a Subaru version, it seemed the answer was yes, they have discovered their sporty side once more. Speculation, rumors, and a number of concepts from Toyota, Scion, and Subaru would come out over the next couple years before the official introductions in late 2011 and early 2012. There would be the Toyota GT86 which was a callback to the mid-eighties RWD Corolla AE86. Next was the Subaru BRZ which differed from the rest of the Subaru lineup by being a RWD model, not AWD. Finally for North America was the Scion FR-S, providing a unique product for Toyota’s youth brand. Its been a long wait for these coupes, but was it worth it? To answer this question, I got a 2013 Scion FR-S for the holidays. The Look The FR-S’ exterior design is what you expect out of a sporting car; a small, low slung body mounted on top of a short wheelbase. Key design cues to take note are the embellished front and rear fenders, a distinct character line running along the door, rear diffuser with reverse lights, and on the front fenders, a little 86 badge paying homage to the mid-eighties Corolla AE86. Inside the FR-S, its a simple and clean layout. Materials are hard plastics of varying quality which will annoy some people. I had no problems with it since the money was wisely spent elsewhere in the vehicle. The controls are logically laid out and easy to reach. Scion fitted a set of sport seats for the driver and front passenger. The seats provide good bolstering and support when you’re driving aggressively. However I couldn’t fit into the seats comfortably due to my shoulders being a bit too wide for the seats. I know I happen to be an odd case on this, but its worth noting if you’re looking into this. The back seat area is only really usable for storing stuff or putting small kids. All Part of a Balanced Diet Underneath the Scion FR-S’ skin is a recipe for balance. Power comes from 2.0L Subaru Boxer-four that’s fitted with Toyota's D-4S direct injection system. Horsepower is rated at 200 (@ 7,000 RPM) and torque is at 151 lb-ft (@ 5,100 RPM). The reason for going with the boxer engine is due to how low the engine can be set in a vehicle. The lower the engine, the lower center of gravity a vehicle has. For transmissions, you have the choice of either a six-speed manual or my test FR-S’ six-speed automatic with paddle shifters. With the automatic, you choice of three different drive modes (Normal, Sport and Snow) that changes the behavior of the transmission. The FR-S also features a limited-slip differential as standard equipment. Suspension duties are taken care by a set up MacPherson struts up front and a double-wishbone in the rear. A set of 17-inch alloy wheels are wrapped in Michelin Primacy HP summer tires. Driving the FR-S down a nice twisty backroad is a very rewarding experience. The engine does have to be worked to reach its sweet spot, but the reward is a nice growl from the exhaust and the knowledge that the engine doesn't mind being pushed. The six-speed automatic is surprisingly quick and smooth, especially when you put the vehicle into sport mode as the transmission holds onto the gears through the corners and blips the throttle. You can also do the shifting yourself via the paddle shifters whether the transmission is in Drive or in the manual mode. While its fun to play with paddles, I found leaving the vehicle in Drive with the Sport mode on did a better job than me. I also found myself wishing the paddles were on the steering column than the wheel, so I wouldn't be playing the game of ‘where are the paddles now?’ The suspension does an excellent job of keeping FR-S level and balanced when going from corner to corner. Steering is very quick and precise, and provides a very good amount of a road feel. A bit surprising when you find out the FR-S steering is a electric power system, not hydraulic. Also surprising was a VSC Sport button which dials back the stability control up to a point to allow you to explore the limits of the FR-S. It’s A Double Edge Sword Now all those things I have listed above really do make the FR-S a great back road car, but it doesn’t make it a great daily driver for a good amount of people. For starters, I wished the engine had a bit more power, especially in the mid-range. Trying to make a pass or merge with traffic meant I had essentially step on it to perform. Also the suspension which is great in the corners is horrid on Metro Detroit roads. The suspension doesn’t have enough give whenever you drive over potholes or road imperfections and you will feel it very clearly. One thing I wasn't complaining about the FR-S was fuel economy. The EPA rates the FR-S at 25 City/34 Highway/28 Combined. During the week, I averaged 30.4 MPG. On the freeway I saw 34.2 MPG. The Time Has Come The Scion FR-S is a very special and impressive coupe. From the very unique looks to the way it drives, Scion has a alternative to the sport compacts and sports cars in the price bracket. The base price of $24,500 for a six-speed manual and $25,300 for a six-speed automatic makes it a steal. Its not for everyone though. The rough ride brought on by firm suspension, spartan interior, and engine not having enough power will scare some people away. But for those who can put up with these faults will bask in knowledge of having one of best driving vehicles on sale today. Disclaimer: Scion provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Album: 2013 Scion FR-S 16 images 0 comments Year - 2013 Make – Scion Model – FR-S Trim – N/A Engine – 2.0L Direct and Port-Injected Boxer-Four Driveline – Rear-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 200 HP (@ 7,000 RPM) Torque @ RPM – 151 lb-ft (@ 5,400 RPM) Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 25/34/28 Curb Weight – 2,806 lbs Location of Manufacture - Ōta, Gunma, Japan Base Price - $25,300.00 As Tested Price - $26,099.00* (Includes $730.00 Destination Charge) Options: Rear Bumper Applique - $69.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  3. By William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com February 1, 2013 October 2009 was a monumental month for Toyota. It was at the Tokyo Motor Show where the company revealed a very interesting concept called the FT-86; a small, lightweight two-door coupe that was jointly worked on by Toyota and Subaru. This sent shockwaves across the automotive landscape. Had Toyota rediscovered its sporty side it once had during the eighties and nineties? Or was it fluke? When the company announced that a production model would be coming along with a Subaru version, it seemed the answer was yes, they have discovered their sporty side once more. Speculation, rumors, and a number of concepts from Toyota, Scion, and Subaru would come out over the next couple years before the official introductions in late 2011 and early 2012. There would be the Toyota GT86 which was a callback to the mid-eighties RWD Corolla AE86. Next was the Subaru BRZ which differed from the rest of the Subaru lineup by being a RWD model, not AWD. Finally for North America was the Scion FR-S, providing a unique product for Toyota’s youth brand. Its been a long wait for these coupes, but was it worth it? To answer this question, I got a 2013 Scion FR-S for the holidays. The Look The FR-S’ exterior design is what you expect out of a sporting car; a small, low slung body mounted on top of a short wheelbase. Key design cues to take note are the embellished front and rear fenders, a distinct character line running along the door, rear diffuser with reverse lights, and on the front fenders, a little 86 badge paying homage to the mid-eighties Corolla AE86. Inside the FR-S, its a simple and clean layout. Materials are hard plastics of varying quality which will annoy some people. I had no problems with it since the money was wisely spent elsewhere in the vehicle. The controls are logically laid out and easy to reach. Scion fitted a set of sport seats for the driver and front passenger. The seats provide good bolstering and support when you’re driving aggressively. However I couldn’t fit into the seats comfortably due to my shoulders being a bit too wide for the seats. I know I happen to be an odd case on this, but its worth noting if you’re looking into this. The back seat area is only really usable for storing stuff or putting small kids. All Part of a Balanced Diet Underneath the Scion FR-S’ skin is a recipe for balance. Power comes from 2.0L Subaru Boxer-four that’s fitted with Toyota's D-4S direct injection system. Horsepower is rated at 200 (@ 7,000 RPM) and torque is at 151 lb-ft (@ 5,100 RPM). The reason for going with the boxer engine is due to how low the engine can be set in a vehicle. The lower the engine, the lower center of gravity a vehicle has. For transmissions, you have the choice of either a six-speed manual or my test FR-S’ six-speed automatic with paddle shifters. With the automatic, you choice of three different drive modes (Normal, Sport and Snow) that changes the behavior of the transmission. The FR-S also features a limited-slip differential as standard equipment. Suspension duties are taken care by a set up MacPherson struts up front and a double-wishbone in the rear. A set of 17-inch alloy wheels are wrapped in Michelin Primacy HP summer tires. Driving the FR-S down a nice twisty backroad is a very rewarding experience. The engine does have to be worked to reach its sweet spot, but the reward is a nice growl from the exhaust and the knowledge that the engine doesn't mind being pushed. The six-speed automatic is surprisingly quick and smooth, especially when you put the vehicle into sport mode as the transmission holds onto the gears through the corners and blips the throttle. You can also do the shifting yourself via the paddle shifters whether the transmission is in Drive or in the manual mode. While its fun to play with paddles, I found leaving the vehicle in Drive with the Sport mode on did a better job than me. I also found myself wishing the paddles were on the steering column than the wheel, so I wouldn't be playing the game of ‘where are the paddles now?’ The suspension does an excellent job of keeping FR-S level and balanced when going from corner to corner. Steering is very quick and precise, and provides a very good amount of a road feel. A bit surprising when you find out the FR-S steering is a electric power system, not hydraulic. Also surprising was a VSC Sport button which dials back the stability control up to a point to allow you to explore the limits of the FR-S. It’s A Double Edge Sword Now all those things I have listed above really do make the FR-S a great back road car, but it doesn’t make it a great daily driver for a good amount of people. For starters, I wished the engine had a bit more power, especially in the mid-range. Trying to make a pass or merge with traffic meant I had essentially step on it to perform. Also the suspension which is great in the corners is horrid on Metro Detroit roads. The suspension doesn’t have enough give whenever you drive over potholes or road imperfections and you will feel it very clearly. One thing I wasn't complaining about the FR-S was fuel economy. The EPA rates the FR-S at 25 City/34 Highway/28 Combined. During the week, I averaged 30.4 MPG. On the freeway I saw 34.2 MPG. The Time Has Come The Scion FR-S is a very special and impressive coupe. From the very unique looks to the way it drives, Scion has a alternative to the sport compacts and sports cars in the price bracket. The base price of $24,500 for a six-speed manual and $25,300 for a six-speed automatic makes it a steal. Its not for everyone though. The rough ride brought on by firm suspension, spartan interior, and engine not having enough power will scare some people away. But for those who can put up with these faults will bask in knowledge of having one of best driving vehicles on sale today. Disclaimer: Scion provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Album: 2013 Scion FR-S 16 images 0 comments Year - 2013 Make – Scion Model – FR-S Trim – N/A Engine – 2.0L Direct and Port-Injected Boxer-Four Driveline – Rear-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 200 HP (@ 7,000 RPM) Torque @ RPM – 151 lb-ft (@ 5,400 RPM) Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 25/34/28 Curb Weight – 2,806 lbs Location of Manufacture - Ōta, Gunma, Japan Base Price - $25,300.00 As Tested Price - $26,099.00* (Includes $730.00 Destination Charge) Options: Rear Bumper Applique - $69.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster. View full article
  4. By William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com February 8, 2013 At one time in the U.S. auto market, you had a wide variety of compact pickups to choose from. You could get a Chevrolet S-10, Ford Ranger, Nissan Hardbody, or a number of other pickups. But now there isn’t such a thing as a compact pickup. The last compact pickup truck, the Ford Ranger, said farewell in 2011. Other compact pickups have grown into what we now call the midsize class. That brings us to the current crop of midsize pickups; the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma. These two models make up the current selection of midsize pickups. But is that a good thing? Why are there only two models in the midsize pickups class? I recently had a 2013 Toyota Tacoma Access Cab to find out. Variety is the Spice of Life The 2013 Tacoma comes in a variety of configurations to suit your needs. Whether you need a single cab with a four-cylinder engine or a crew cab with a V6 and off-road package, Toyota probably has a Tacoma for you. Our test Tacoma was a SR5 Access Cab, Toyota’s name for extended cab. Toyota has made some tweaks the Tacoma’s exterior in 2012, mostly in the front. There is a new grille, headlights, and bumper that help make the Tacoma’s 2005 design look somewhat newer. The Tacoma’s standard truck bed measures out at 73.5 inches long, which means the truck can handle a run to the hardware store to pick up supplies with no problem. Stepping inside the Tacoma Access Cab, you do notice that it hasn’t aged very well. Despite Toyota’s best efforts to spruce it up by installing a new steering wheel, revising the graphics on the gauges, and changing the colors on the center stack, the interior feels like it has just rolled off the assembly line back in 2005. Materials are what you would usually find in most mid-size trucks, hard plastics in the usual places. However, the Tacoma’s interior does have some positive points. For starters, the dash layout is simple and the controls are within easy reach. The front seats are very comfortable with a good amount of adjustments and bolstering. Then there is the Access Cab which increases interior space and provides additional space. You can fit two people in the back in the jump seats, but only if they are small kids. Power? Yes. Fuel Economy and Ride? Umm.. The Tacoma can be equipped with either a 2.7L four-cylinder or what our test Tacoma was equipped with, a 4.0L V6. I should explain Toyota uses two variations of the 4.0L in their Trucks and SUVs. For the Tundra and 4Runner, Toyota employs a 4.0L producing 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. In the Tacoma, Toyota uses the same 4.0L producing less power at 236 horsepower and 266 pound-feet torque. Transmission choices for the Tacoma include a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic. The 4.0L V6 feels faster than what is indicated on the speedometer thanks to the bulk of torque being on the low-end and the automatic’s gearing spaced out to provide more performance. With an empty bed and dry payment, you can easily get a squeal from the rear tires. On the expressway, the V6 was able get up to speed very quickly and make passes with no sweat. I never thought that I needed the higher performing 4.0L in the week I had the Tacoma. One item Toyota does need to address with the Tacoma’s 4.0L V6 is fuel economy. The EPA rates the 2013 Toyota Tacoma Access Cab SR5 V6 4WD at 16 City/21 Highway/18 Combined, which is similar to full-size pickups equipped V8 engines. During my time with the Tacoma, I averaged about 17.6 MPG. The Tacoma’s suspension uses a double wishbone with gas-filled shocks in the front and leaf springs in the back. This setup provided a soft, yet very bouncy ride. I kept wondering if I was riding a mechanical bull and not a truck. I’m sure if the bed had a load, the bounciness would subside a bit. One surprise of the Tacoma was its steering. Toyota uses a variable assist rack and pinion system and it provided an excellent amount of feel and weight. Combine it with smaller dimensions of the Tacoma and it is a breeze to maneuver around tight spaces. There’s A Good Truck Here, But Needs Some Drastic Changes The 2013 Tacoma Access Cab SR5 V6 has left me torn. On one hand, the Tacoma has a comfortable and straightforward interior layout, a punchy V6, and good maneuverability. On the other hand, the Tacoma gets about the same fuel economy as full-size trucks, an interior that feels very old, and the bouncy ride. There’s another nail in the Tacoma’s coffin and that is the price. As tested, the Tacoma Access Cab SR5 V6 stickers at $30,580.00. At a glance, this seems somewhat reasonable. However with that same amount of cash, you could head down to your local Chevrolet, Ford, Ram dealer and get a full-size truck that is equipped similar to the Tacoma. Toyota is now at a point with the Tacoma where it has two options; either leave the Tacoma as-is or begin making some changes to full unleash the potential of this truck. Those changes include swapping the five-speed automatic for a six-speed automatic and seeing if they can squeeze some more fuel economy out of the 4.0L V6. I hope Toyota goes with the latter option since the midsize truck market could use a kick in the pants. Album: 2013 Toyota Tacoma Access Cab SR5 V6 4WD 18 images 0 comments Disclaimer: Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Year - 2013 Make – Toyota Model – Tacoma Access Cab Trim – SR5 V6 Engine – 4.0L DOHC 24V VVT-i V6 Driveline – Part Time Four-Wheel Drive, Five-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 236 @ 5,200 RPM Torque @ RPM – 266 @ 4,000 RPM Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/21/18 Curb Weight – 4,100 lbs Location of Manufacture – San Antonio, TX Base Price - $26,185.00 As Tested Price - $30,580.00 (Includes $895.00 destination charge) Options: SR5 Value Package - $2,335.00 V6 Tow Package - $650.00 Running Boards - $376.00 Six-Speaker, AM/FM/SirusXM/CD/MP3/WMA/Bluetooth/Aux/iPod Sound System - $300.00 Floor Mats and Door Sill Protector -$195.00 Exhaust Tip - $85.00 Daytime Running Lights - $40.00 First Aid Kit - $39.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  5. By William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com February 8, 2013 At one time in the U.S. auto market, you had a wide variety of compact pickups to choose from. You could get a Chevrolet S-10, Ford Ranger, Nissan Hardbody, or a number of other pickups. But now there isn’t such a thing as a compact pickup. The last compact pickup truck, the Ford Ranger, said farewell in 2011. Other compact pickups have grown into what we now call the midsize class. That brings us to the current crop of midsize pickups; the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma. These two models make up the current selection of midsize pickups. But is that a good thing? Why are there only two models in the midsize pickups class? I recently had a 2013 Toyota Tacoma Access Cab to find out. Variety is the Spice of Life The 2013 Tacoma comes in a variety of configurations to suit your needs. Whether you need a single cab with a four-cylinder engine or a crew cab with a V6 and off-road package, Toyota probably has a Tacoma for you. Our test Tacoma was a SR5 Access Cab, Toyota’s name for extended cab. Toyota has made some tweaks the Tacoma’s exterior in 2012, mostly in the front. There is a new grille, headlights, and bumper that help make the Tacoma’s 2005 design look somewhat newer. The Tacoma’s standard truck bed measures out at 73.5 inches long, which means the truck can handle a run to the hardware store to pick up supplies with no problem. Stepping inside the Tacoma Access Cab, you do notice that it hasn’t aged very well. Despite Toyota’s best efforts to spruce it up by installing a new steering wheel, revising the graphics on the gauges, and changing the colors on the center stack, the interior feels like it has just rolled off the assembly line back in 2005. Materials are what you would usually find in most mid-size trucks, hard plastics in the usual places. However, the Tacoma’s interior does have some positive points. For starters, the dash layout is simple and the controls are within easy reach. The front seats are very comfortable with a good amount of adjustments and bolstering. Then there is the Access Cab which increases interior space and provides additional space. You can fit two people in the back in the jump seats, but only if they are small kids. Power? Yes. Fuel Economy and Ride? Umm.. The Tacoma can be equipped with either a 2.7L four-cylinder or what our test Tacoma was equipped with, a 4.0L V6. I should explain Toyota uses two variations of the 4.0L in their Trucks and SUVs. For the Tundra and 4Runner, Toyota employs a 4.0L producing 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. In the Tacoma, Toyota uses the same 4.0L producing less power at 236 horsepower and 266 pound-feet torque. Transmission choices for the Tacoma include a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic. The 4.0L V6 feels faster than what is indicated on the speedometer thanks to the bulk of torque being on the low-end and the automatic’s gearing spaced out to provide more performance. With an empty bed and dry payment, you can easily get a squeal from the rear tires. On the expressway, the V6 was able get up to speed very quickly and make passes with no sweat. I never thought that I needed the higher performing 4.0L in the week I had the Tacoma. One item Toyota does need to address with the Tacoma’s 4.0L V6 is fuel economy. The EPA rates the 2013 Toyota Tacoma Access Cab SR5 V6 4WD at 16 City/21 Highway/18 Combined, which is similar to full-size pickups equipped V8 engines. During my time with the Tacoma, I averaged about 17.6 MPG. The Tacoma’s suspension uses a double wishbone with gas-filled shocks in the front and leaf springs in the back. This setup provided a soft, yet very bouncy ride. I kept wondering if I was riding a mechanical bull and not a truck. I’m sure if the bed had a load, the bounciness would subside a bit. One surprise of the Tacoma was its steering. Toyota uses a variable assist rack and pinion system and it provided an excellent amount of feel and weight. Combine it with smaller dimensions of the Tacoma and it is a breeze to maneuver around tight spaces. There’s A Good Truck Here, But Needs Some Drastic Changes The 2013 Tacoma Access Cab SR5 V6 has left me torn. On one hand, the Tacoma has a comfortable and straightforward interior layout, a punchy V6, and good maneuverability. On the other hand, the Tacoma gets about the same fuel economy as full-size trucks, an interior that feels very old, and the bouncy ride. There’s another nail in the Tacoma’s coffin and that is the price. As tested, the Tacoma Access Cab SR5 V6 stickers at $30,580.00. At a glance, this seems somewhat reasonable. However with that same amount of cash, you could head down to your local Chevrolet, Ford, Ram dealer and get a full-size truck that is equipped similar to the Tacoma. Toyota is now at a point with the Tacoma where it has two options; either leave the Tacoma as-is or begin making some changes to full unleash the potential of this truck. Those changes include swapping the five-speed automatic for a six-speed automatic and seeing if they can squeeze some more fuel economy out of the 4.0L V6. I hope Toyota goes with the latter option since the midsize truck market could use a kick in the pants. Album: 2013 Toyota Tacoma Access Cab SR5 V6 4WD 18 images 0 comments Disclaimer: Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Year - 2013 Make – Toyota Model – Tacoma Access Cab Trim – SR5 V6 Engine – 4.0L DOHC 24V VVT-i V6 Driveline – Part Time Four-Wheel Drive, Five-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 236 @ 5,200 RPM Torque @ RPM – 266 @ 4,000 RPM Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/21/18 Curb Weight – 4,100 lbs Location of Manufacture – San Antonio, TX Base Price - $26,185.00 As Tested Price - $30,580.00 (Includes $895.00 destination charge) Options: SR5 Value Package - $2,335.00 V6 Tow Package - $650.00 Running Boards - $376.00 Six-Speaker, AM/FM/SirusXM/CD/MP3/WMA/Bluetooth/Aux/iPod Sound System - $300.00 Floor Mats and Door Sill Protector -$195.00 Exhaust Tip - $85.00 Daytime Running Lights - $40.00 First Aid Kit - $39.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster. View full article
  6. By William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com February 5, 2013 This is how I think a conversation would go with someone about the 2013 Kia Sorento SX V6 I had in for review. “Hey William.” “Hey.” “So what are you reviewing this week?” “The 2013 Kia Sorento SX V6.” “Didn’t Kia introduce a refreshed Sorento?” “Yes at the LA Auto Show. It will be a 2014 model coming out sometime in the first quarter of 2013.” “Why are you reviewing the 2013 model if the 2014 model is coming soon?” “Well for two reasons. One: I have a point of comparison when I get the chance to check out the 2014 model. Two: I want to see if a person should wait to get the 2014 model or go ahead with the 2013 model.” “Ahh.” Shall we dive in? Since its introduction in 2009 as a 2011 model, the second-generation Kia Sorento’s design really hasn’t changed much. The front end features Kia’s signature grille and a set of unique headlights. The side profile has deeply chiseled door panels and windows that are pushed somewhat into the body. On the SX model you gain painted front and rear bumpers, a rear spoiler, and a set of eighteen-inch wheels to give it a very dramatic look. Inside the Sorento feels older than it should. Blame the hard plastics and some of equipment used up front, most notably the climate control system. Aside from this, the interior features very good build quality. Front and second row passengers will feel very comfortable thanks to the very good amount of head and legroom, and adjustments provided. The third row is best left for small kids or folded flat since that expands cargo room from a meager 9.1 cubic feet to 37 cubic feet of space. Equipment is very generous on the Sorento SX. Starting at $33,400, the SX model includes leather seats for all three rows, heated front seats, push-button start, rear ventilation, an Infinity sound system, USB and Aux jack, and Bluetooth as standard equipment. My test Sorento SX also came equipped with the Premium package which adds such items as navigation, heated steering wheel, a memory function for the driver’s seat and mirrors, and a panoramic sunroof. For the extra $3,200 the package adds onto the Sorento SX’s price tag, I find it to be a very good value since models from competitors would cost somewhat more to come close to matching the SX’s equipment level. The 2013 Sorento comes with three different engine choices. The base LX model gets a 2.4L four-cylinder engine. There is also a 2.4L four-cylinder with direct injection that is available on the LX and standard on the EX. Lastly, there is a 3.5L V6 that’s standard on the SX and optional on the LX and EX. The 3.5L V6 produces 276 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. The power is fed through a six-speed automatic down to either the front wheels or optional all-wheel drive system. The V6 packs quite the punch for any situation you encounter. Whether its to merge onto a freeway or leaving a stop, the V6’s power is immediate and smooth. More surprisingly was how quiet the V6 engine was. The only way you knew the engine was doing anything besides dropping the hammer was watching the rev counter. The six-speed automatic was very smooth and quick to downshift at a moments notice. My only real disappointment with V6 was fuel economy. The EPA rates the Sorento SX V6 with AWD at 18 City/24 Highway/20 combined. During my week, I got an average of 20.5 MPG. However when I was driving the Sorento in the city, I saw my average MPG drop to around 15.8 MPG. If you’re planning to drive a lot in the city, you should consider the four-cylinder. The Sorento’s AWD system is a full-time unit that features a locking center differential. I found the system to be very capable when driving through the aftermath of a snowstorm. The system provided enough traction to get and keep the vehicle on the move, even in some unplowed roads. One oddity in the Sorento SX was a hill descent control system. Hill descent control uses the ABS to control each wheel's speed to get down a hill in rough terrain at a very slow speed. I’m not quite sure how many Sorento owners will utilize this feature, but it's there if you need it. The Sorento SX’s ride and drive can be best explained in three (or four) words; quiet and mostly comfortable. The suspension is tuned for comfort which provides a very smooth and stable ride. Steering is perfectly weighted for the intended application and is surprisingly quick to respond. Driving on the highway, the Sorento exhibits barely any noise from the suspension or the road, making this a very relaxing highway cruiser. The 2013 Kia Sorento SX with AWD starts $33,400.00. Add a few options and destination and you're looking at $37,575.00, the price of my tester. Now some people will argue that seems a bit much for a seven-seat crossover. However I would rebut that for price, the Sorento SX brings forth a number of features that the competition either doesn't have or you would need to tick a few more option boxes to come close. If you were to ask me before the showing of the 2014 Sorento would I recommend the current Sorento, the answer is yes. The 2013 Kia Sorento SX is a very capable and value oriented crossover; providing a good mix of looks, equipment, power, and comfort in one package. But with the 2014 Sorento around the corner, I would say wait and see. The 2014 model brings forth a number of improvements, including a new 3.3L V6 and a more modern interior. Disclaimer: Kia provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Album: 2013 Kia Sorento SX 21 images 0 comments Year - 2013 Make – Kia Model – Sorento Trim – SX AWD Engine – 3.5L DOHC CVVT V6 Driveline – All-Wheel Drive with Locking Center Differential, Six-Speed Automatic Transmission Horsepower @ RPM – 276 (@ 6,300 RPM) Torque @ RPM – 248 (@ 5,000 RPM) Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/24/20 Curb Weight – 3,935 lbs Location of Manufacture – West Point, Georgia Base Price - $33,400.00 (SX with AWD) As Tested Price - $37,575.00 (Includes $800.00 Destination Charge) Options: Premium Package 3 - $3,200.00 Cargo Cover - $125.00 Cargo Net - $50.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  7. By William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com February 5, 2013 This is how I think a conversation would go with someone about the 2013 Kia Sorento SX V6 I had in for review. “Hey William.” “Hey.” “So what are you reviewing this week?” “The 2013 Kia Sorento SX V6.” “Didn’t Kia introduce a refreshed Sorento?” “Yes at the LA Auto Show. It will be a 2014 model coming out sometime in the first quarter of 2013.” “Why are you reviewing the 2013 model if the 2014 model is coming soon?” “Well for two reasons. One: I have a point of comparison when I get the chance to check out the 2014 model. Two: I want to see if a person should wait to get the 2014 model or go ahead with the 2013 model.” “Ahh.” Shall we dive in? Since its introduction in 2009 as a 2011 model, the second-generation Kia Sorento’s design really hasn’t changed much. The front end features Kia’s signature grille and a set of unique headlights. The side profile has deeply chiseled door panels and windows that are pushed somewhat into the body. On the SX model you gain painted front and rear bumpers, a rear spoiler, and a set of eighteen-inch wheels to give it a very dramatic look. Inside the Sorento feels older than it should. Blame the hard plastics and some of equipment used up front, most notably the climate control system. Aside from this, the interior features very good build quality. Front and second row passengers will feel very comfortable thanks to the very good amount of head and legroom, and adjustments provided. The third row is best left for small kids or folded flat since that expands cargo room from a meager 9.1 cubic feet to 37 cubic feet of space. Equipment is very generous on the Sorento SX. Starting at $33,400, the SX model includes leather seats for all three rows, heated front seats, push-button start, rear ventilation, an Infinity sound system, USB and Aux jack, and Bluetooth as standard equipment. My test Sorento SX also came equipped with the Premium package which adds such items as navigation, heated steering wheel, a memory function for the driver’s seat and mirrors, and a panoramic sunroof. For the extra $3,200 the package adds onto the Sorento SX’s price tag, I find it to be a very good value since models from competitors would cost somewhat more to come close to matching the SX’s equipment level. The 2013 Sorento comes with three different engine choices. The base LX model gets a 2.4L four-cylinder engine. There is also a 2.4L four-cylinder with direct injection that is available on the LX and standard on the EX. Lastly, there is a 3.5L V6 that’s standard on the SX and optional on the LX and EX. The 3.5L V6 produces 276 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. The power is fed through a six-speed automatic down to either the front wheels or optional all-wheel drive system. The V6 packs quite the punch for any situation you encounter. Whether its to merge onto a freeway or leaving a stop, the V6’s power is immediate and smooth. More surprisingly was how quiet the V6 engine was. The only way you knew the engine was doing anything besides dropping the hammer was watching the rev counter. The six-speed automatic was very smooth and quick to downshift at a moments notice. My only real disappointment with V6 was fuel economy. The EPA rates the Sorento SX V6 with AWD at 18 City/24 Highway/20 combined. During my week, I got an average of 20.5 MPG. However when I was driving the Sorento in the city, I saw my average MPG drop to around 15.8 MPG. If you’re planning to drive a lot in the city, you should consider the four-cylinder. The Sorento’s AWD system is a full-time unit that features a locking center differential. I found the system to be very capable when driving through the aftermath of a snowstorm. The system provided enough traction to get and keep the vehicle on the move, even in some unplowed roads. One oddity in the Sorento SX was a hill descent control system. Hill descent control uses the ABS to control each wheel's speed to get down a hill in rough terrain at a very slow speed. I’m not quite sure how many Sorento owners will utilize this feature, but it's there if you need it. The Sorento SX’s ride and drive can be best explained in three (or four) words; quiet and mostly comfortable. The suspension is tuned for comfort which provides a very smooth and stable ride. Steering is perfectly weighted for the intended application and is surprisingly quick to respond. Driving on the highway, the Sorento exhibits barely any noise from the suspension or the road, making this a very relaxing highway cruiser. The 2013 Kia Sorento SX with AWD starts $33,400.00. Add a few options and destination and you're looking at $37,575.00, the price of my tester. Now some people will argue that seems a bit much for a seven-seat crossover. However I would rebut that for price, the Sorento SX brings forth a number of features that the competition either doesn't have or you would need to tick a few more option boxes to come close. If you were to ask me before the showing of the 2014 Sorento would I recommend the current Sorento, the answer is yes. The 2013 Kia Sorento SX is a very capable and value oriented crossover; providing a good mix of looks, equipment, power, and comfort in one package. But with the 2014 Sorento around the corner, I would say wait and see. The 2014 model brings forth a number of improvements, including a new 3.3L V6 and a more modern interior. Disclaimer: Kia provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Album: 2013 Kia Sorento SX 21 images 0 comments Year - 2013 Make – Kia Model – Sorento Trim – SX AWD Engine – 3.5L DOHC CVVT V6 Driveline – All-Wheel Drive with Locking Center Differential, Six-Speed Automatic Transmission Horsepower @ RPM – 276 (@ 6,300 RPM) Torque @ RPM – 248 (@ 5,000 RPM) Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/24/20 Curb Weight – 3,935 lbs Location of Manufacture – West Point, Georgia Base Price - $33,400.00 (SX with AWD) As Tested Price - $37,575.00 (Includes $800.00 Destination Charge) Options: Premium Package 3 - $3,200.00 Cargo Cover - $125.00 Cargo Net - $50.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster. View full article
  8. By Chris Doane January 29, 2013 I know I won’t get much, if any, sympathy when I say that, sometimes, there are letdowns when you review cars. Last week, the car I was evaluating was a $100,000, 400hp, German coupe. (Read my review of the 2012 BMW 650i xDrive coupe here) I’ve now stepped directly from that into a Kia Rio. I’ll pause for your laughter. For the price of the super coupe, you can buy 5.4 Kia Rios. You could keep that .4 for spare parts? But don’t let price fool you. Oddly enough, there is something about the way the Kia drives that beats the German car hands down. If you guessed power, speed or luxury, then you’re either not familiar with these cars, or you’re three martinis into “lunch” at the bar. What the much cheaper Kia does have over the German car is steering feel. The coupe from Deutschland has 262 more horse power, yards and yards of leather, but in the Kia, I actually have some sense of what the front wheels are doing via what I feel through the steering wheel. And I’ll take some feel over none any day. If driving is something you enjoy, steering feel is pretty useful information to have when zipping through the corners. Even if driving is nothing more than a task for you, it’s pretty nice to know when the front wheels feel like they’re about to lose traction. While no one would ever mistake the Rio for a sporty, corner carving car, the Rio SX model has a sport-tuned suspension, 17-inch wheels, and light, responsive steering that, somehow, make this small, underpowered car a little bit fun to drive. It’s a bit like a go-kart, only with airbags, a trunk and room for five passengers. Well, 4.5 anyway. The main reason I say “a little bit fun to drive” is because of the 1.6L, 138hp four cylinder motor in the Rio. Those hot, 17-inch wheels on this Rio SX might make it look quick, but this hatchback ain’t going anywhere fast. While there is certainly power to be had from this little four-banger, you’ve got to rev the snot out of it to reach that power. Once the tachometer reads 4500-5000rpm, then you approach something that could be considered acceleration. In regular, everyday driving, the lack of power isn’t really an issue. You’ll get through the city, and around the highways, just fine. But in some situations, like passing on even a modest incline, you might think twice. As I attempted to pass an older, slower Nissan on a slight uphill, the pass happened in such slow fashion that I would’ve had time to say hello to the driver, ask if he was hungry, make a sandwich, and pass it over. Wait, did he want Grey Poupon? So we don’t have speed, but that should come as no surprise since this car is intended more for fuel efficiency. The Rio is rated for 28mpg city, 36mpg highway, and we observed a 31mpg average with sporty driving habits and more highway driving than city driving. There is also an “eco” button you can press that reigns in the engine, and transmission shift points, for increased fuel economy. Even though the fuel economy is fairly good, the tank in the Rio is pretty tiny at 11.3 gallons. If you have a long commute, you’ll still be filling up a lot, but at least you’ll only be pumping in 11 gallons each time. If you want to know when that tank is about to run dry, it’s not a good idea to rely on the digital, remaining range readout in the gauge cluster. One moment, the Rio SX told me I could drive another 31 miles before I was out of fuel. Less than 5 minutes of regular driving later, it told me I had no range remaining. Inside the Rio, it’s about what you’d expect in a $18,545 car. A nicely designed, mostly hard plastic interior, but with soft touch material in the right spots and a backup camera. Wait, what? A backup camera in a $18,545 car? Touch-screen nav too? Don’t forget the power fold mirrors. Though, in a car this narrow, I’m not really sure why you’d ever need to fold in the mirrors. Of those features, it’s the backup camera that is almost a necesity due to the massive blind spots the stylish C-pillars create. Without a rear-facing camera, backing out of a parking spot involves more prayer than driving skill. Normally, in cars of this price range, the seats suffer when it comes to comfort. Somehow, the chairs in the Rio manage not to do that. They certainly aren’t heavily padded or bosltered seats, but after three hours of wheeling, I was perfectly comfortable, and ready for three more. Frankly, the best part of the Rio is how fantastic it looks. If you venture back even a few years ago and look at the cars Kia was producing then, you’d never have guessed this company was capable of designing something this good looking. Not only does the exterior design trump the Scion xB, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and Nissan Versa, but it certainly holds its’ own against the Chevy Sonic and Ford Fiesta as well. 2012 Kia Rio SX 5-door - $17,700 -Carpeted Floor Mats - $95 -Destination - $750 TOTAL - $18,545 Album: 2012 Kia Rio SX 5-Door 7 images 0 comments
  9. By Chris Doane January 29, 2013 I know I won’t get much, if any, sympathy when I say that, sometimes, there are letdowns when you review cars. Last week, the car I was evaluating was a $100,000, 400hp, German coupe. (Read my review of the 2012 BMW 650i xDrive coupe here) I’ve now stepped directly from that into a Kia Rio. I’ll pause for your laughter. For the price of the super coupe, you can buy 5.4 Kia Rios. You could keep that .4 for spare parts? But don’t let price fool you. Oddly enough, there is something about the way the Kia drives that beats the German car hands down. If you guessed power, speed or luxury, then you’re either not familiar with these cars, or you’re three martinis into “lunch” at the bar. What the much cheaper Kia does have over the German car is steering feel. The coupe from Deutschland has 262 more horse power, yards and yards of leather, but in the Kia, I actually have some sense of what the front wheels are doing via what I feel through the steering wheel. And I’ll take some feel over none any day. If driving is something you enjoy, steering feel is pretty useful information to have when zipping through the corners. Even if driving is nothing more than a task for you, it’s pretty nice to know when the front wheels feel like they’re about to lose traction. While no one would ever mistake the Rio for a sporty, corner carving car, the Rio SX model has a sport-tuned suspension, 17-inch wheels, and light, responsive steering that, somehow, make this small, underpowered car a little bit fun to drive. It’s a bit like a go-kart, only with airbags, a trunk and room for five passengers. Well, 4.5 anyway. The main reason I say “a little bit fun to drive” is because of the 1.6L, 138hp four cylinder motor in the Rio. Those hot, 17-inch wheels on this Rio SX might make it look quick, but this hatchback ain’t going anywhere fast. While there is certainly power to be had from this little four-banger, you’ve got to rev the snot out of it to reach that power. Once the tachometer reads 4500-5000rpm, then you approach something that could be considered acceleration. In regular, everyday driving, the lack of power isn’t really an issue. You’ll get through the city, and around the highways, just fine. But in some situations, like passing on even a modest incline, you might think twice. As I attempted to pass an older, slower Nissan on a slight uphill, the pass happened in such slow fashion that I would’ve had time to say hello to the driver, ask if he was hungry, make a sandwich, and pass it over. Wait, did he want Grey Poupon? So we don’t have speed, but that should come as no surprise since this car is intended more for fuel efficiency. The Rio is rated for 28mpg city, 36mpg highway, and we observed a 31mpg average with sporty driving habits and more highway driving than city driving. There is also an “eco” button you can press that reigns in the engine, and transmission shift points, for increased fuel economy. Even though the fuel economy is fairly good, the tank in the Rio is pretty tiny at 11.3 gallons. If you have a long commute, you’ll still be filling up a lot, but at least you’ll only be pumping in 11 gallons each time. If you want to know when that tank is about to run dry, it’s not a good idea to rely on the digital, remaining range readout in the gauge cluster. One moment, the Rio SX told me I could drive another 31 miles before I was out of fuel. Less than 5 minutes of regular driving later, it told me I had no range remaining. Inside the Rio, it’s about what you’d expect in a $18,545 car. A nicely designed, mostly hard plastic interior, but with soft touch material in the right spots and a backup camera. Wait, what? A backup camera in a $18,545 car? Touch-screen nav too? Don’t forget the power fold mirrors. Though, in a car this narrow, I’m not really sure why you’d ever need to fold in the mirrors. Of those features, it’s the backup camera that is almost a necesity due to the massive blind spots the stylish C-pillars create. Without a rear-facing camera, backing out of a parking spot involves more prayer than driving skill. Normally, in cars of this price range, the seats suffer when it comes to comfort. Somehow, the chairs in the Rio manage not to do that. They certainly aren’t heavily padded or bosltered seats, but after three hours of wheeling, I was perfectly comfortable, and ready for three more. Frankly, the best part of the Rio is how fantastic it looks. If you venture back even a few years ago and look at the cars Kia was producing then, you’d never have guessed this company was capable of designing something this good looking. Not only does the exterior design trump the Scion xB, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and Nissan Versa, but it certainly holds its’ own against the Chevy Sonic and Ford Fiesta as well. 2012 Kia Rio SX 5-door - $17,700 -Carpeted Floor Mats - $95 -Destination - $750 TOTAL - $18,545 Album: 2012 Kia Rio SX 5-Door 7 images 0 comments View full article
  10. By Chris Doane January 7, 2013 It’s midweek and I’m cruising down the interstate when I come up behind one of the Passat TDI’s diesel brethren from a few decades prior: An early 1980’s Mercedes 300D. The tortured Benz was loud, emitting a smoke screen, and judging from its’ lack of ability to pass a semi-truck, the non-turbocharged 300D. A quick look at the trunk lid badging confirmed that. Back in the 1980’s, I’m not really sure what the appeal of the 300D would’ve been. Gasoline was around $1.20 a gallon and luxury buyers wouldn’t have thought twice about filling up at that price. The 300D had 83hp, 120 lb-ft of torque, and without the turbocharger, looked to have “John Deere” acceleration qualities. Fuel economy usually fell between the high 20’s and low 30’s. As it turned out, the biggest redeeming quality, realized years later, was that the diesel motors in the 300 were built to be absolutely bombproof. The first 100,000 miles on these motors was simply the break-in period. These days, Mercedes 300D’s reaching half a million miles, or more, is not uncommon. The one I saw looked as though it might be past the half-million mark, but there it was, still going. Well, sort of. Pulling my mind back into the cabin of the Passat TDI, the contrast is pretty stark. I’m driving at a casual 72mph, and the car isn’t even breaking a sweat, humming along at 2200rpm. No diesel racket, no smelly gray cloud, no lack of ability to pass at highway speeds. Thirty years of diesel technology advancements had now turned a car that roared, coughed and smoked into a sedan that behaved like all the rest and sipped diesel at a minuscule rate. Same, but different Walk onto a Volkswagen dealer lot, and the only real visual cue to tell the diesel Passat apart from the gasoline model is “TDI” badge on the back. Once you pop the hood, you’ll be face to face with the TDI’s biggest change: The 140hp, 2.0L four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. As with all diesels, it’s the 236 lb-ft of torque that really gives the Passat TDI its’ oomph. Past the different power plant, the other significant change is waiting for you in the trunk where the urea filler spout is located. Urea, or AdBlue as VW dubs it, is a liquid that is injected into the exhaust, greatly reducing the terribleness of diesel exhaust and allowing the car to meet U.S. emissions regulations. That might sound like an added hassle, but one tank of urea in the Passat should last you 10,000 miles, and is timed to be part of your regular oil changes. If the urea tank does happen run low, as it did during my week with the Passat, the car gives you somewhat of a stern warning, but it comes well in advance of the urea tank going dry. With 800 miles of urea range remaining, the warning light advised the engine would not be able to start once the tank was empty. The good news is a gallon of urea cost me only $6.99 at a local auto parts store and took all of three minutes to buy and pour into the tank. If you can’t manage to do that within 800 miles, the problem might be sitting in the driver’s seat. Both the diesel and gasoline-powered Passats feature a smooth shifting, 6-speed DSG transmission. You’ll barely feel the first two shifts, and you’d have to have your eyes glued to the tachometer to know the cogs are swapping once you’re into third gear. MPGs The Passat TDI is a pretty purpose driven vehicle. It’s meant to be a comfortable, mid-size cruiser that gets phenomenal fuel economy, and it reaches those goals with ease. The interior feels quite large, front and back, and the materials have not been cheapened in the way that the Jetta’s have. While I’m still pretty sure the only people fingering the dashboards are automotive writers, if you feel the need, you will find it’s fairly soft. More importantly, the 8-way power seats are “drive all day” comfortable. The most impressive part, and the reason you’ll buy this sedan, is the fuel economy. With the automatic transmission, the EPA says the Passat will get 30mpg in the city and 40mpg on the highway. However, that’s not really accurate. One of the quirks with diesel engines is that it takes longer for them to break in than gasoline motors. 10,000 miles is usually the number most TDI aficionados use for a good break in period. During that break in period, the piston rings in the engine will become better seated and the compression in the engine will improve. The end result of that is even better fuel economy. The Passat I drove had nearly 17,000 miles on it by the time I slid behind the wheel, so this diesel engine should’ve been operating much closer to its full potential than a brand new engine. Much of the driving I did was on hilly roads, and with a less-than-light foot. Despite that, the Passat still averaged 42-44mpg. That’s 2-4mpg above the EPA highway rating while driving like a teenager who’d just got his license and the keys to dad’s car. Once I eased off the throttle and returned to a regular pace, the mpg started creeping towards 50mpg. Use the cruise control for all your highway driving, and a mileage number just past 50mpg wouldn’t be out of the question. On the downside, the Passat’s fun factor rates somewhere around “mashed potatoes.” The suspension is tuned much more for comfort than it is for cornering. There is a decent helping of body roll in the corners, and over large bumps, or rough road, the Passat can feel downright floaty. That’s great if your mom is in the passenger seat, but not so good if you want to go hunting for the corner apex. Additionally, the turbo lag is pretty noticeable. Floor the accelerator, and for the first two seconds, not much happens. That can make jumping out into traffic from a dead stop a pretty interesting gamble. Once the turbo is spooled up, power delivery is adequate. The Highway Choice In the end, I can forgive the Passat TDI for not being a sport sedan because that just isn’t what it’s supposed to be. In the same way that a hybrid or electric car makes sense for city drivers, this VW makes huge sense for people who spend most of their commute on the highway. Unfortunately, a fun-to-drive diesel doesn’t really exist in the U.S. market yet, but a midsize sedan that can achieve 50+ mpg can’t be ignored. Going out to the car the next morning and thinking “didn’t the fuel gauge say that yesterday morning?” was certainly not a bad feeling. 2012 VW Passat TDI SEL Base price - $32,915 Destination - $795 Total = $33,710 Album: 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI 6 images 0 comments
  11. By Chris Doane January 7, 2013 It’s midweek and I’m cruising down the interstate when I come up behind one of the Passat TDI’s diesel brethren from a few decades prior: An early 1980’s Mercedes 300D. The tortured Benz was loud, emitting a smoke screen, and judging from its’ lack of ability to pass a semi-truck, the non-turbocharged 300D. A quick look at the trunk lid badging confirmed that. Back in the 1980’s, I’m not really sure what the appeal of the 300D would’ve been. Gasoline was around $1.20 a gallon and luxury buyers wouldn’t have thought twice about filling up at that price. The 300D had 83hp, 120 lb-ft of torque, and without the turbocharger, looked to have “John Deere” acceleration qualities. Fuel economy usually fell between the high 20’s and low 30’s. As it turned out, the biggest redeeming quality, realized years later, was that the diesel motors in the 300 were built to be absolutely bombproof. The first 100,000 miles on these motors was simply the break-in period. These days, Mercedes 300D’s reaching half a million miles, or more, is not uncommon. The one I saw looked as though it might be past the half-million mark, but there it was, still going. Well, sort of. Pulling my mind back into the cabin of the Passat TDI, the contrast is pretty stark. I’m driving at a casual 72mph, and the car isn’t even breaking a sweat, humming along at 2200rpm. No diesel racket, no smelly gray cloud, no lack of ability to pass at highway speeds. Thirty years of diesel technology advancements had now turned a car that roared, coughed and smoked into a sedan that behaved like all the rest and sipped diesel at a minuscule rate. Same, but different Walk onto a Volkswagen dealer lot, and the only real visual cue to tell the diesel Passat apart from the gasoline model is “TDI” badge on the back. Once you pop the hood, you’ll be face to face with the TDI’s biggest change: The 140hp, 2.0L four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. As with all diesels, it’s the 236 lb-ft of torque that really gives the Passat TDI its’ oomph. Past the different power plant, the other significant change is waiting for you in the trunk where the urea filler spout is located. Urea, or AdBlue as VW dubs it, is a liquid that is injected into the exhaust, greatly reducing the terribleness of diesel exhaust and allowing the car to meet U.S. emissions regulations. That might sound like an added hassle, but one tank of urea in the Passat should last you 10,000 miles, and is timed to be part of your regular oil changes. If the urea tank does happen run low, as it did during my week with the Passat, the car gives you somewhat of a stern warning, but it comes well in advance of the urea tank going dry. With 800 miles of urea range remaining, the warning light advised the engine would not be able to start once the tank was empty. The good news is a gallon of urea cost me only $6.99 at a local auto parts store and took all of three minutes to buy and pour into the tank. If you can’t manage to do that within 800 miles, the problem might be sitting in the driver’s seat. Both the diesel and gasoline-powered Passats feature a smooth shifting, 6-speed DSG transmission. You’ll barely feel the first two shifts, and you’d have to have your eyes glued to the tachometer to know the cogs are swapping once you’re into third gear. MPGs The Passat TDI is a pretty purpose driven vehicle. It’s meant to be a comfortable, mid-size cruiser that gets phenomenal fuel economy, and it reaches those goals with ease. The interior feels quite large, front and back, and the materials have not been cheapened in the way that the Jetta’s have. While I’m still pretty sure the only people fingering the dashboards are automotive writers, if you feel the need, you will find it’s fairly soft. More importantly, the 8-way power seats are “drive all day” comfortable. The most impressive part, and the reason you’ll buy this sedan, is the fuel economy. With the automatic transmission, the EPA says the Passat will get 30mpg in the city and 40mpg on the highway. However, that’s not really accurate. One of the quirks with diesel engines is that it takes longer for them to break in than gasoline motors. 10,000 miles is usually the number most TDI aficionados use for a good break in period. During that break in period, the piston rings in the engine will become better seated and the compression in the engine will improve. The end result of that is even better fuel economy. The Passat I drove had nearly 17,000 miles on it by the time I slid behind the wheel, so this diesel engine should’ve been operating much closer to its full potential than a brand new engine. Much of the driving I did was on hilly roads, and with a less-than-light foot. Despite that, the Passat still averaged 42-44mpg. That’s 2-4mpg above the EPA highway rating while driving like a teenager who’d just got his license and the keys to dad’s car. Once I eased off the throttle and returned to a regular pace, the mpg started creeping towards 50mpg. Use the cruise control for all your highway driving, and a mileage number just past 50mpg wouldn’t be out of the question. On the downside, the Passat’s fun factor rates somewhere around “mashed potatoes.” The suspension is tuned much more for comfort than it is for cornering. There is a decent helping of body roll in the corners, and over large bumps, or rough road, the Passat can feel downright floaty. That’s great if your mom is in the passenger seat, but not so good if you want to go hunting for the corner apex. Additionally, the turbo lag is pretty noticeable. Floor the accelerator, and for the first two seconds, not much happens. That can make jumping out into traffic from a dead stop a pretty interesting gamble. Once the turbo is spooled up, power delivery is adequate. The Highway Choice In the end, I can forgive the Passat TDI for not being a sport sedan because that just isn’t what it’s supposed to be. In the same way that a hybrid or electric car makes sense for city drivers, this VW makes huge sense for people who spend most of their commute on the highway. Unfortunately, a fun-to-drive diesel doesn’t really exist in the U.S. market yet, but a midsize sedan that can achieve 50+ mpg can’t be ignored. Going out to the car the next morning and thinking “didn’t the fuel gauge say that yesterday morning?” was certainly not a bad feeling. 2012 VW Passat TDI SEL Base price - $32,915 Destination - $795 Total = $33,710 Album: 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI 6 images 0 comments View full article
  12. By William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com January 24, 2013 The letter R in the automotive world means an automaker has added a bit of spice to one of their vehicles. Examples include Acura Integra Type R and Volkswagen Golf R32 and R. The best example of the letter R being used by an automaker is Volvo. A brand known for safety and button-down styling would surprise the world when it introduced the 850 T-5 R sedan and wagon in 1995. Draped in some very wild colors, the 850 T-5 R was for its time one of fastest vehicles on the planet thanks to some major tweaks to the powertrain and suspension. Volvo would follow up with the 1999 V70R and the 2003 - 2006 S60R and V70R models, all of them proving improved performance over the base models. But since the S60R and V70R models left the Volvo lineup, there hasn’t quite been the craziness the R models brought forth. Instead Volvo fell back into its safety ritual, but with more distinctive designs. Two key things would happen to Volvo within the past couple of years to bring them back into the crazy fold. First would be Volvo strengthening and expanding its partnership with its racing and performance partner Polestar. Second would be the introduction of the R-Design trim for the S60 and XC60. R-Design brings some tweaks to exterior, engine, and chassis. That brings us to the 2013 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design. Does it show signs that craziness has entered Volvo once more? Subtlety? Where?! Volvo’s have been known to be very understated in their designs and the S60 R-Design is no exception to that rule, if you don’t decide to get your R-Design in what Volvo calls Rebel Blue. While I did like the bold color choice, some people weren’t so impressed with it. If you want to be fully understated with your S60 R-Design, go with another color. Aside from the color, there’s a lot to appreciate about the S60’s design. The new S60 is an evolution of the first-generation model with some coupe cues in the form of a short rear overhang and sloping roof. Volvo has also fitted a unique set of headlights with LEDs sitting right beside it. The R-Design package layers on a lower front spoiler, eighteen-inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler, rear diffuser with dual-exhaust pipes, and a little R-Design badge on the front denoting its status. A Lesson in Simplicity The S60 R-Design’s interior is one of simplicity. The dashboard is very clean in its design with a mixture of a soft-touch materials, metal accents around the vents and door pulls, and a unique metal center stack. Its a very handsome and and well-built interior. The front seats, draped in black leather, were some of the most comfortable seats I have sat in all year. Providing eight-way adjustments, heat, and the right amount of bolstering, the seats had the right of comfort and support for enthusiastic or long drives. Backseat passengers will appreciate the amount of headroom. Legroom can vary from good to none depending on how far the front seat is set. Simplicity is a good word to describe the infotainment system. Instead of going with a controller like BMW, Mercedes and Audi, or a touchscreen with capacitive touch buttons like Cadillac and Lincoln, Volvo went with using a center stack full of buttons and knobs for to move around and control the system which appears on a seven-inch non-touch color screen. Some will complain that the center stack has way too many buttons and is a distraction to see which button you need to press. I would agree that when you're first using it, but after a while, it becomes second nature. While its very easy to use the system, I found that doing certain functions like moving around the map was a pain in the butt. I hope Volvo keeps the idea of simplicity when working on the next generation of their infotainment system, but maybe adds a joystiq or something that makes certain functions easier to do. Those Crazy Swedes Under the S60 T6 AWD R-Design is Volvo’s T6 engine; a turbocharged straight-six. In the normal S60 T6, you’re looking at 300 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque. In the R-Design model, you’re looking at 325 horsepower (@ 5,400 RPM) and 354 lb-ft of torque (@ 3,200 - 3,600 RPM). This is in part due to Polestar which increased the boost of the turbocharger and installed a new module which changes ignition, fuel mapping and throttle response. Power is sent to a six-speed Geartronic automatic transmission down to a Haldex-built AWD system. The engine has a Jekyll and Hyde personality. If you go about and drive the S60 R-Design normally, the engine is able to keep up with traffic very well with nary a hint of its performance cred. However if you decide to slam the pedal to the floor or throw the transmission into either sport or manual mode, the engine will throw you back into your seat and climb in speed at a very alarming rate. Plus, you get this amazing growl from the exhaust. The six-speed automatic does an amazing job of proving smooth and unobtrusive shifts whether I had my foot to the floor or moving along at a normal pace. I did wish the R-Design came with some paddles to have more fun with the engine. I did have an odd problem with this S60 R-Design’s gas pedal. If I put my foot on the pedal normally, about a quarter-way down, I found that I would going into hyperspace speed. But if maybe go an eighth of the way down on the pedal, the car accelerates normally. I’m not whether this is a programming issue or not, but reading through some other reviews of this car don’t mention this problem, so its just an issue with this particular vehicle. The Haldex-built AWD system was non-intrusive and provided a feeling of sure-footedness no matter the conditions outside. Combined with Volvo’s Corner Traction Control system, the AWD system made the vehicle feel small and nimble when going through corners. Fuel economy wise, S60 T6 R-Design is right in the middle of the pack in the compact luxury car class with the EPA rating it 18 City/25 Highway/21 Combined. For the week, I averaged 21.2 MPG with mostly suburban driving. A word of warning though; if you decide to stick your foot in the S60 T6 R-Design more often than not, be prepared to see your average MPG drop into the mid-teens. The R-Design’s suspension is mostly the same as the normal S60. There are MacPherson struts up front and a independent rear suspension setup with stabilizer bars at either end. For the R-Design model, Volvo adds a 15 millimeter drop to the suspension, stiffer springs and bushings, strut tower brace, and Mono-tube shocks in the rear. These changes give the S60 R-Design almost the same handling characteristics as those from Germany. As for driving on a day to day basis, the R-Design suspension was able to cope with road imperfections very well. The steering comes in the form of a rack and pinion setup with variable power assist. The steering hits the right balance of weight and feel whether you're attacking your favorite road or doing the daily drive. It gives the Germans and even the Cadillac ATS a run for their money. It's A Volvo After All Being a Volvo of course, the S60 R-Design is filled to the brim with safety technologies. Along with the AWD system and Corner Traction Control, the R-Design is fitted airbags all around the vehicle, Volvo’s Side Impact Protection System (SIPS) and Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS), a rearview camera, and City Safety which uses a sensor mounted at the top of the windshield to monitor traffic ahead of you and put the brakes on if the vehicle senses an impending collision. One feature I wished was standard on the S60 R-Design was Volvo’s BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) which can tell you if a vehicle is in your blind spot. This would be really helpful since rear visibility is terrible thanks to some thick C-Pillars. BLIS is a $700 option on the R-Design, but I do hope Volvo makes it standard sometime in the S60’s lifecycle. Welcome To Crazy Town The 2013 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design shows signs of craziness returning to Volvo. The evidence for this includes the wild blue paint, body modifications that are subtle, the two-sidedness of the powertrain, and a very impressive chassis setup. While Volvo might not have the same cachet as a BMW or an Audi, the S60 R-Design can match them in other areas. If you’re the person who doesn't like to follow the leader, the S60 R-Design is worth a look. Disclaimer: Volvo Cars of North America provided the S60 R-Design, Insurance, and one tank of gas. Album: 2013 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design Year - 2013 Make – Volvo Model – S60 Trim – T6 AWD R-Design Engine – 3.0L Turbocharged Inline-Six Driveline – All-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 325 @ 5400 RPM Torque @ RPM – 354 @ 3000 RPM Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/25/21 Curb Weight – 3,835 lbs Location of Manufacture – Ghent, Belgum Base Price - $43,900.00 As Tested Price - $48,195.00 (Includes $895.00 destination charge) Options: S60 Platinum Package - $2,700.00 Climate Package - $700.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  13. By William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com January 24, 2013 The letter R in the automotive world means an automaker has added a bit of spice to one of their vehicles. Examples include Acura Integra Type R and Volkswagen Golf R32 and R. The best example of the letter R being used by an automaker is Volvo. A brand known for safety and button-down styling would surprise the world when it introduced the 850 T-5 R sedan and wagon in 1995. Draped in some very wild colors, the 850 T-5 R was for its time one of fastest vehicles on the planet thanks to some major tweaks to the powertrain and suspension. Volvo would follow up with the 1999 V70R and the 2003 - 2006 S60R and V70R models, all of them proving improved performance over the base models. But since the S60R and V70R models left the Volvo lineup, there hasn’t quite been the craziness the R models brought forth. Instead Volvo fell back into its safety ritual, but with more distinctive designs. Two key things would happen to Volvo within the past couple of years to bring them back into the crazy fold. First would be Volvo strengthening and expanding its partnership with its racing and performance partner Polestar. Second would be the introduction of the R-Design trim for the S60 and XC60. R-Design brings some tweaks to exterior, engine, and chassis. That brings us to the 2013 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design. Does it show signs that craziness has entered Volvo once more? Subtlety? Where?! Volvo’s have been known to be very understated in their designs and the S60 R-Design is no exception to that rule, if you don’t decide to get your R-Design in what Volvo calls Rebel Blue. While I did like the bold color choice, some people weren’t so impressed with it. If you want to be fully understated with your S60 R-Design, go with another color. Aside from the color, there’s a lot to appreciate about the S60’s design. The new S60 is an evolution of the first-generation model with some coupe cues in the form of a short rear overhang and sloping roof. Volvo has also fitted a unique set of headlights with LEDs sitting right beside it. The R-Design package layers on a lower front spoiler, eighteen-inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler, rear diffuser with dual-exhaust pipes, and a little R-Design badge on the front denoting its status. A Lesson in Simplicity The S60 R-Design’s interior is one of simplicity. The dashboard is very clean in its design with a mixture of a soft-touch materials, metal accents around the vents and door pulls, and a unique metal center stack. Its a very handsome and and well-built interior. The front seats, draped in black leather, were some of the most comfortable seats I have sat in all year. Providing eight-way adjustments, heat, and the right amount of bolstering, the seats had the right of comfort and support for enthusiastic or long drives. Backseat passengers will appreciate the amount of headroom. Legroom can vary from good to none depending on how far the front seat is set. Simplicity is a good word to describe the infotainment system. Instead of going with a controller like BMW, Mercedes and Audi, or a touchscreen with capacitive touch buttons like Cadillac and Lincoln, Volvo went with using a center stack full of buttons and knobs for to move around and control the system which appears on a seven-inch non-touch color screen. Some will complain that the center stack has way too many buttons and is a distraction to see which button you need to press. I would agree that when you're first using it, but after a while, it becomes second nature. While its very easy to use the system, I found that doing certain functions like moving around the map was a pain in the butt. I hope Volvo keeps the idea of simplicity when working on the next generation of their infotainment system, but maybe adds a joystiq or something that makes certain functions easier to do. Those Crazy Swedes Under the S60 T6 AWD R-Design is Volvo’s T6 engine; a turbocharged straight-six. In the normal S60 T6, you’re looking at 300 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque. In the R-Design model, you’re looking at 325 horsepower (@ 5,400 RPM) and 354 lb-ft of torque (@ 3,200 - 3,600 RPM). This is in part due to Polestar which increased the boost of the turbocharger and installed a new module which changes ignition, fuel mapping and throttle response. Power is sent to a six-speed Geartronic automatic transmission down to a Haldex-built AWD system. The engine has a Jekyll and Hyde personality. If you go about and drive the S60 R-Design normally, the engine is able to keep up with traffic very well with nary a hint of its performance cred. However if you decide to slam the pedal to the floor or throw the transmission into either sport or manual mode, the engine will throw you back into your seat and climb in speed at a very alarming rate. Plus, you get this amazing growl from the exhaust. The six-speed automatic does an amazing job of proving smooth and unobtrusive shifts whether I had my foot to the floor or moving along at a normal pace. I did wish the R-Design came with some paddles to have more fun with the engine. I did have an odd problem with this S60 R-Design’s gas pedal. If I put my foot on the pedal normally, about a quarter-way down, I found that I would going into hyperspace speed. But if maybe go an eighth of the way down on the pedal, the car accelerates normally. I’m not whether this is a programming issue or not, but reading through some other reviews of this car don’t mention this problem, so its just an issue with this particular vehicle. The Haldex-built AWD system was non-intrusive and provided a feeling of sure-footedness no matter the conditions outside. Combined with Volvo’s Corner Traction Control system, the AWD system made the vehicle feel small and nimble when going through corners. Fuel economy wise, S60 T6 R-Design is right in the middle of the pack in the compact luxury car class with the EPA rating it 18 City/25 Highway/21 Combined. For the week, I averaged 21.2 MPG with mostly suburban driving. A word of warning though; if you decide to stick your foot in the S60 T6 R-Design more often than not, be prepared to see your average MPG drop into the mid-teens. The R-Design’s suspension is mostly the same as the normal S60. There are MacPherson struts up front and a independent rear suspension setup with stabilizer bars at either end. For the R-Design model, Volvo adds a 15 millimeter drop to the suspension, stiffer springs and bushings, strut tower brace, and Mono-tube shocks in the rear. These changes give the S60 R-Design almost the same handling characteristics as those from Germany. As for driving on a day to day basis, the R-Design suspension was able to cope with road imperfections very well. The steering comes in the form of a rack and pinion setup with variable power assist. The steering hits the right balance of weight and feel whether you're attacking your favorite road or doing the daily drive. It gives the Germans and even the Cadillac ATS a run for their money. It's A Volvo After All Being a Volvo of course, the S60 R-Design is filled to the brim with safety technologies. Along with the AWD system and Corner Traction Control, the R-Design is fitted airbags all around the vehicle, Volvo’s Side Impact Protection System (SIPS) and Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS), a rearview camera, and City Safety which uses a sensor mounted at the top of the windshield to monitor traffic ahead of you and put the brakes on if the vehicle senses an impending collision. One feature I wished was standard on the S60 R-Design was Volvo’s BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) which can tell you if a vehicle is in your blind spot. This would be really helpful since rear visibility is terrible thanks to some thick C-Pillars. BLIS is a $700 option on the R-Design, but I do hope Volvo makes it standard sometime in the S60’s lifecycle. Welcome To Crazy Town The 2013 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design shows signs of craziness returning to Volvo. The evidence for this includes the wild blue paint, body modifications that are subtle, the two-sidedness of the powertrain, and a very impressive chassis setup. While Volvo might not have the same cachet as a BMW or an Audi, the S60 R-Design can match them in other areas. If you’re the person who doesn't like to follow the leader, the S60 R-Design is worth a look. Disclaimer: Volvo Cars of North America provided the S60 R-Design, Insurance, and one tank of gas. Album: 2013 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design Year - 2013 Make – Volvo Model – S60 Trim – T6 AWD R-Design Engine – 3.0L Turbocharged Inline-Six Driveline – All-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 325 @ 5400 RPM Torque @ RPM – 354 @ 3000 RPM Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/25/21 Curb Weight – 3,835 lbs Location of Manufacture – Ghent, Belgum Base Price - $43,900.00 As Tested Price - $48,195.00 (Includes $895.00 destination charge) Options: S60 Platinum Package - $2,700.00 Climate Package - $700.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster. View full article
  14. By William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com January 9, 2013 Ask someone to say the first thing that comes to their mind when you mention the word hybrid, and more often than not they will say the Toyota Prius. Despite not being the first hybrid on sale in the U.S. (that honor falls to the 1999 Honda Insight, which went on sale a full two years before the Prius in the U.S.), the Prius became a sales success and symbol for the hybrid vehicle. Why? The Prius offered the right mix of unheard fuel economy, features, and practicality in one package. Now in its third-generation, the unassuming hybrid hatchback falls into two polar opposite camps of thought. Those who love its efficiency and reliability and those who think the Pruis is an anathema to everything held dear by car enthusiasts. I'm an auto enthusiast, so when I recently spent a week in a 2012 Toyota Prius, I naturally approached the car with skepticism. Is it as good as the high fuel economy fans claim? Is it kryptonite to automotive enthusiasts? Read on to find out. Encounters of the Hybrid Kind The third-generation Prius is very much like the previous-generation model with its alien spaceship look. The third-generation model carries on the oval-esque shape with some aerodynamic tweaks including a smoother front end, squared-off corners on the rear end, and a new rear spoiler. These design changes help drop the drag coefficient from 0.26 cd to 0.25 cd. Other items of note include a set of LED taillights and an optional solar panel (part of a $3,820.00 Deluxe Solar Roof package) that power fans to cool down the vehicle’s interior without turning on the vehicle. I didn't get chance to try it since the average temperature here in Detroit was in the mid-thirties during my time and I rather enter a warm, not cold Prius. What would make this optional solar panel even better is the ability to charge the battery when the Prius is parked and keep the Prius warm in winter. Inside, the alien spaceship design theme continues with a floating center stack, a uniquely-styled shift knob, and a digital gauge cluster sitting on top and in the middle of the dashboard. The placement of gauge cluster does make it somewhat harder to make a quick glance while on the move. My test Prius did come with a heads-up display which had a speedometer and a power gauge letting you know how much power you’re drawing from the hybrid system. I do want to talk to the person who decided to hide the buttons for the heated seats underneath the center stack. The only way you know where they’re hiding is when you enter or exit the Prius. Did no one at Toyota bring this up during one of the design meetings? Seating was decent for both front and rear passengers with enough head and legroom. Materials are what you would find in current Toyota models; hard plastics and very synthetic-feeling leather. This would be ok if the price tag of this Prius wasn’t $33,118.00. The only real positive to the interior is that build quality is very good throughout the interior. As I mentioned earlier, this Prius was equipped with the $3,820.00 Deluxe Solar Roof package. Besides the solar roof, the package includes a seven-inch touch screen, navigation, Toyota’s Entune System, Bluetooth, an eight-speaker JBL system, and Toyota’s safety connect which provides emergency assistance services. The touchscreen was very responsive when pressed and provided the right amount brightness whether it was day or night. The eight-speaker JBL system provided ok sound, but I found that I had to turn it up when driving the Prius on the highway as there was too much road noise. As for Entune, I didn't get chance to try it since I didn't have the application on my iPhone to utilize the system. Yes, you need the Entune application on either your iPhone or Android phone to use it. Under the Skin, It’s a Prius Alright Pop the hood of the Prius and right before your eyes is one part of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive; a 1.8L Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine producing 98 horsepower (@ 5,200 rpm) and 105 lb-ft of torque (@ 4,000 rpm), and a electric motor producing 80 horsepower and 153 lb-ft of torque. Total power output is rated at 134 horsepower. The other part of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive is a Nickel-Metal Hydride battery pack sitting in the back of the Prius. Your only transmission is a CVT. The Prius’ powertrain gets the job done. It will take a few seconds longer to get up to the speed on the road. Not much noise from either the engine or CVT enters the cabin when you accelerate normally. If you need to get a move on because there is a larger vehicle bearing down onto you or need to merge onto the highway, the drone of the engine and CVT are very apparent. Thankfully, the hybrid system seamlessly transitions electric power. The center stack has three buttons that can change the behavior of the hybrid system. The first is an EV mode which allows the Prius to travel a short distance on electric power alone below 25 MPH. The hybrid system will turn if you go above 25 or press further down on the pedal. With a light foot, I was able to go about a mile on electric power alone. Next is Eco mode which reduces throttle response in an emphasis to get better fuel economy numbers. This is ok if you don’t have a lot of traffic behind you or in a hurry to move along. If you don’t meet either or the criteria, leave Eco mode off. Finally there is Power mode which is the opposite of Eco mode. This mode noticeably increases throttle response to help you in certain situations like merging onto a highway. Fuel economy is very impressive for this small car. The EPA rates the Prius at 51 City/48 Highway/50 Combined. During my week with the Prius, I averaged 47.9 MPG with mostly suburban driving and sticking my foot into it. Ride and handling is taken care with a pair of MacPherson struts with a stabilizer bar up front and a torsion beam setup in the rear. While the setup isn’t technologically advanced like the rest of the Prius, it provides a somewhat comfortable ride. I did wish for some more damping when driving over craters that are called potholes in the Detroit area. Steering for the Prius comes in the form of an electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion system. The steering has some heft and some feel, something the old Prius lacked. That doesn’t make it a driver’s car since the Prius’ suspension is more tuned for comfort and the standard low-rolling resistance tires don’t provide enough grip. The Prius is a quiet vehicle when driven below 50 MPH. Go above that and you’ll notice an abundance of road and wind noise. I’m hoping with the next-generation Prius, Toyota puts in some more sound deadening material. Visibility is very good for the front and side. Rear visibility takes a hit due to the rear hatch shape and the large spoiler sitting in the middle of the hatch. Thankfully, the Prius did come equipped with a standard rear view camera. The Prius truly delivers on its promise of greenness with some impressive fuel economy numbers, clever technologies to make every use up every last drop of gas, unique design, and comfortable ride. However, the Prius has some faults. The road and wind noise while going above 50 MPH tops my list followed by the interior materials. That said the Toyota Prius is the perfect vehicle for someone who commutes in town and wants to tell everyone that they’re saving the planet. For me, I’ll pass on the Prius. Cheers Fuel Economy Technology Exterior Looks Somewhat Comfortable Ride Jeers Wind and Road Noise at Speed Engine and CVT During Hard Acceleration Materials Used in the Cabin Disclaimer: Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Album: 2012 Toyota Prius Four 18 images 0 comments Year - 2012 Make – Toyota Model – Prius Trim – Four Engine – 1.8L Atkinson cycle four-cylinder, Electric Motor Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, Electronically Controlled continuously Variable Transmission Horsepower @ RPM – (Gas) 98 HP (@ 5,200 RPM), (Electric) 80 HP (N/A), (Combined) 134 HP Torque @ RPM – (Gas) 105 lb-ft (@ 4,000 RPM), (Electric) 153 HP (N/A), (Combined) N/A Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 51/48/50 Curb Weight – 3,042 lbs Location of Manufacture – Tsutsumi, Japan Base Price - $28,235.00 As Tested Price - $33,118.00 (Includes $760.00 Destination Charge) Options Deluxe Solar Roof Package: $3,820.00 Carpet Floor Mats & Cargo Mat: $225.00 Cargo Net: $49.00 First Aid Kit: $29.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  15. By William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com January 9, 2013 Ask someone to say the first thing that comes to their mind when you mention the word hybrid, and more often than not they will say the Toyota Prius. Despite not being the first hybrid on sale in the U.S. (that honor falls to the 1999 Honda Insight, which went on sale a full two years before the Prius in the U.S.), the Prius became a sales success and symbol for the hybrid vehicle. Why? The Prius offered the right mix of unheard fuel economy, features, and practicality in one package. Now in its third-generation, the unassuming hybrid hatchback falls into two polar opposite camps of thought. Those who love its efficiency and reliability and those who think the Pruis is an anathema to everything held dear by car enthusiasts. I'm an auto enthusiast, so when I recently spent a week in a 2012 Toyota Prius, I naturally approached the car with skepticism. Is it as good as the high fuel economy fans claim? Is it kryptonite to automotive enthusiasts? Read on to find out. Encounters of the Hybrid Kind The third-generation Prius is very much like the previous-generation model with its alien spaceship look. The third-generation model carries on the oval-esque shape with some aerodynamic tweaks including a smoother front end, squared-off corners on the rear end, and a new rear spoiler. These design changes help drop the drag coefficient from 0.26 cd to 0.25 cd. Other items of note include a set of LED taillights and an optional solar panel (part of a $3,820.00 Deluxe Solar Roof package) that power fans to cool down the vehicle’s interior without turning on the vehicle. I didn't get chance to try it since the average temperature here in Detroit was in the mid-thirties during my time and I rather enter a warm, not cold Prius. What would make this optional solar panel even better is the ability to charge the battery when the Prius is parked and keep the Prius warm in winter. Inside, the alien spaceship design theme continues with a floating center stack, a uniquely-styled shift knob, and a digital gauge cluster sitting on top and in the middle of the dashboard. The placement of gauge cluster does make it somewhat harder to make a quick glance while on the move. My test Prius did come with a heads-up display which had a speedometer and a power gauge letting you know how much power you’re drawing from the hybrid system. I do want to talk to the person who decided to hide the buttons for the heated seats underneath the center stack. The only way you know where they’re hiding is when you enter or exit the Prius. Did no one at Toyota bring this up during one of the design meetings? Seating was decent for both front and rear passengers with enough head and legroom. Materials are what you would find in current Toyota models; hard plastics and very synthetic-feeling leather. This would be ok if the price tag of this Prius wasn’t $33,118.00. The only real positive to the interior is that build quality is very good throughout the interior. As I mentioned earlier, this Prius was equipped with the $3,820.00 Deluxe Solar Roof package. Besides the solar roof, the package includes a seven-inch touch screen, navigation, Toyota’s Entune System, Bluetooth, an eight-speaker JBL system, and Toyota’s safety connect which provides emergency assistance services. The touchscreen was very responsive when pressed and provided the right amount brightness whether it was day or night. The eight-speaker JBL system provided ok sound, but I found that I had to turn it up when driving the Prius on the highway as there was too much road noise. As for Entune, I didn't get chance to try it since I didn't have the application on my iPhone to utilize the system. Yes, you need the Entune application on either your iPhone or Android phone to use it. Under the Skin, It’s a Prius Alright Pop the hood of the Prius and right before your eyes is one part of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive; a 1.8L Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine producing 98 horsepower (@ 5,200 rpm) and 105 lb-ft of torque (@ 4,000 rpm), and a electric motor producing 80 horsepower and 153 lb-ft of torque. Total power output is rated at 134 horsepower. The other part of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive is a Nickel-Metal Hydride battery pack sitting in the back of the Prius. Your only transmission is a CVT. The Prius’ powertrain gets the job done. It will take a few seconds longer to get up to the speed on the road. Not much noise from either the engine or CVT enters the cabin when you accelerate normally. If you need to get a move on because there is a larger vehicle bearing down onto you or need to merge onto the highway, the drone of the engine and CVT are very apparent. Thankfully, the hybrid system seamlessly transitions electric power. The center stack has three buttons that can change the behavior of the hybrid system. The first is an EV mode which allows the Prius to travel a short distance on electric power alone below 25 MPH. The hybrid system will turn if you go above 25 or press further down on the pedal. With a light foot, I was able to go about a mile on electric power alone. Next is Eco mode which reduces throttle response in an emphasis to get better fuel economy numbers. This is ok if you don’t have a lot of traffic behind you or in a hurry to move along. If you don’t meet either or the criteria, leave Eco mode off. Finally there is Power mode which is the opposite of Eco mode. This mode noticeably increases throttle response to help you in certain situations like merging onto a highway. Fuel economy is very impressive for this small car. The EPA rates the Prius at 51 City/48 Highway/50 Combined. During my week with the Prius, I averaged 47.9 MPG with mostly suburban driving and sticking my foot into it. Ride and handling is taken care with a pair of MacPherson struts with a stabilizer bar up front and a torsion beam setup in the rear. While the setup isn’t technologically advanced like the rest of the Prius, it provides a somewhat comfortable ride. I did wish for some more damping when driving over craters that are called potholes in the Detroit area. Steering for the Prius comes in the form of an electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion system. The steering has some heft and some feel, something the old Prius lacked. That doesn’t make it a driver’s car since the Prius’ suspension is more tuned for comfort and the standard low-rolling resistance tires don’t provide enough grip. The Prius is a quiet vehicle when driven below 50 MPH. Go above that and you’ll notice an abundance of road and wind noise. I’m hoping with the next-generation Prius, Toyota puts in some more sound deadening material. Visibility is very good for the front and side. Rear visibility takes a hit due to the rear hatch shape and the large spoiler sitting in the middle of the hatch. Thankfully, the Prius did come equipped with a standard rear view camera. The Prius truly delivers on its promise of greenness with some impressive fuel economy numbers, clever technologies to make every use up every last drop of gas, unique design, and comfortable ride. However, the Prius has some faults. The road and wind noise while going above 50 MPH tops my list followed by the interior materials. That said the Toyota Prius is the perfect vehicle for someone who commutes in town and wants to tell everyone that they’re saving the planet. For me, I’ll pass on the Prius. Cheers Fuel Economy Technology Exterior Looks Somewhat Comfortable Ride Jeers Wind and Road Noise at Speed Engine and CVT During Hard Acceleration Materials Used in the Cabin Disclaimer: Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Album: 2012 Toyota Prius Four 18 images 0 comments Year - 2012 Make – Toyota Model – Prius Trim – Four Engine – 1.8L Atkinson cycle four-cylinder, Electric Motor Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, Electronically Controlled continuously Variable Transmission Horsepower @ RPM – (Gas) 98 HP (@ 5,200 RPM), (Electric) 80 HP (N/A), (Combined) 134 HP Torque @ RPM – (Gas) 105 lb-ft (@ 4,000 RPM), (Electric) 153 HP (N/A), (Combined) N/A Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 51/48/50 Curb Weight – 3,042 lbs Location of Manufacture – Tsutsumi, Japan Base Price - $28,235.00 As Tested Price - $33,118.00 (Includes $760.00 Destination Charge) Options Deluxe Solar Roof Package: $3,820.00 Carpet Floor Mats & Cargo Mat: $225.00 Cargo Net: $49.00 First Aid Kit: $29.00 William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster. View full article
  16. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com November 6, 2012 Much like the competition, Kia offers a variety of powertrains in their midsize sedan competitor, the Optima, to meet the demands of consumers. There’s a base four-cylinder model, a turbocharged-four taking the place of a V6, and hybrid model. I’ve reviewed the base four-cylinder Optima back in July, and found it to be one of best midsize sedans on sale. Now it’s time to see where the Optima Hybrid can match the high bar set by the regular Optima or not. The differences between a normal Optima and an Optima Hybrid are very noticeable on the exterior. The biggest giveaway that you’re driving an Optima Hybrid besides the hybrid badge on the back is a unique set of seventeen-inch alloy wheels. Other changes Kia has done to the Optima Hybrid include a revised rear fascia and a new rear spoiler. On the interior, Kia has changed the instrument cluster to one that gives information on how much battery charge there is left, an eco gauge, and a small color screen providing trip computer info. The optional navigation unit (part of the $5,350.00 premium technology package) has a screen providing information about the system. The Optima Hybrid’s powertrain is made up of a 2.4L gas engine producing 166 HP (@ 6,000 RPM) and 154 lb-ft of torque (@ 4,250 RPM), an electric motor producing 40 HP (@ 1,400-6,000 RPM) and 151 lb-ft of torque (0 - 1,400 RPM), and a 270V lithium-polymer battery. Total output of the hybrid system is 206 HP and 195 lb-ft of torque going through a six-speed automatic. The best way to describe the Optima Hybrid’s powertrain is ‘almost fully realized’. When pulling away from a stop, the Hybrid pulls away quickly whether on electric or hybrid power. On open roads and in traffic, I never found myself wishing for more power since the powertrain is able to keep up. The downside to this system is the transition from electric to hybrid power is very noticeable. When the switch happens, you can hear the gas engine hesitate for a brief moment and feel some sort of vibration. The Optima Hybrid got EPA ratings of 35 City/40 Highway/37 combined. However a few weeks after turning the Optima Hybrid back in, Hyundai and Kia announced they had overstated fuel economy on certain 2011-2013 vehicles. The Optima Hybrid was one of those vehicles affected and has revised EPA fuel economy numbers of 34 City/39 Highway/36 combined. During the week, I averaged 37.2 on mostly rural and suburban roads. On the freeway, I hit 40 MPG with the cruise control set on 70 MPH. Kia didn’t change much with handling and ride of the Optima Hybrid, which means the sporty and composed ride from the standard Optima remains. Steering on the Optima Hybrid is the same as the normal Optima as well; not a lot of feel and a surprising amount of heaviness to it. Wind and road noise on the Optima Hybrid were kept to a minimum. The Kia Optima Hybrid is very good first effort. Building upon a good base of the normal Optima, the hybrid model possesses very good performance and decent fuel economy for the class. Kia does need to work on smoothing out the transition from electric to hybrid power though. There is one problem for the Kia Optima Hybrid, the competition. On paper, the Toyota Camry Hybrid and the new Ford Fusion Hybrid best the Optima Hybrid in fuel economy ratings. The only thing Kia can fight back with is the amount of equipment that you can get for the price. The Optima Hybrid I had in for review cost $32,500.00. But for that price, I got heated and cooled front seats, heated back seats, panoramic sunroof, navigation, a premium sound system, and much more. To try and match the equipment level of the Optima Hybrid, you’ll have to spend a few thousand more on the competitors. Is that enough though to convince someone to check it out? If you’re looking for a midsize hybrid to stand out, check out the Optima Hybrid. If fuel economy is a concern, look at the Camry and Fusion. Disclaimer: Kia provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Year - 2012 Make – Kia Model – Optima Hybrid Trim – N/A Engine – 2.4L Four-Cylinder, Electric Motor Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – (Gas) 166 HP (@ 6,000 RPM) , (Electric) 40.2 HP (@ 1,400 to 6,000 RPM), (Combined) 206 HP Torque @ RPM – (Gas) 154 lb-ft (@ 4,250 RPM), (Electric) 166 HP (@ 0 - 1,400 RPM), (Combined) 195 lb-ft Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 34/39/36 Curb Weight – 3,490 lbs Location of Manufacture – Hwasung, South Korea Base Price - $25,700.00 As Tested Price - $32,500.00 (Includes $750.00 Destination Charge) William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  17. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com November 6, 2012 Much like the competition, Kia offers a variety of powertrains in their midsize sedan competitor, the Optima, to meet the demands of consumers. There’s a base four-cylinder model, a turbocharged-four taking the place of a V6, and hybrid model. I’ve reviewed the base four-cylinder Optima back in July, and found it to be one of best midsize sedans on sale. Now it’s time to see where the Optima Hybrid can match the high bar set by the regular Optima or not. The differences between a normal Optima and an Optima Hybrid are very noticeable on the exterior. The biggest giveaway that you’re driving an Optima Hybrid besides the hybrid badge on the back is a unique set of seventeen-inch alloy wheels. Other changes Kia has done to the Optima Hybrid include a revised rear fascia and a new rear spoiler. On the interior, Kia has changed the instrument cluster to one that gives information on how much battery charge there is left, an eco gauge, and a small color screen providing trip computer info. The optional navigation unit (part of the $5,350.00 premium technology package) has a screen providing information about the system. The Optima Hybrid’s powertrain is made up of a 2.4L gas engine producing 166 HP (@ 6,000 RPM) and 154 lb-ft of torque (@ 4,250 RPM), an electric motor producing 40 HP (@ 1,400-6,000 RPM) and 151 lb-ft of torque (0 - 1,400 RPM), and a 270V lithium-polymer battery. Total output of the hybrid system is 206 HP and 195 lb-ft of torque going through a six-speed automatic. The best way to describe the Optima Hybrid’s powertrain is ‘almost fully realized’. When pulling away from a stop, the Hybrid pulls away quickly whether on electric or hybrid power. On open roads and in traffic, I never found myself wishing for more power since the powertrain is able to keep up. The downside to this system is the transition from electric to hybrid power is very noticeable. When the switch happens, you can hear the gas engine hesitate for a brief moment and feel some sort of vibration. The Optima Hybrid got EPA ratings of 35 City/40 Highway/37 combined. However a few weeks after turning the Optima Hybrid back in, Hyundai and Kia announced they had overstated fuel economy on certain 2011-2013 vehicles. The Optima Hybrid was one of those vehicles affected and has revised EPA fuel economy numbers of 34 City/39 Highway/36 combined. During the week, I averaged 37.2 on mostly rural and suburban roads. On the freeway, I hit 40 MPG with the cruise control set on 70 MPH. Kia didn’t change much with handling and ride of the Optima Hybrid, which means the sporty and composed ride from the standard Optima remains. Steering on the Optima Hybrid is the same as the normal Optima as well; not a lot of feel and a surprising amount of heaviness to it. Wind and road noise on the Optima Hybrid were kept to a minimum. The Kia Optima Hybrid is very good first effort. Building upon a good base of the normal Optima, the hybrid model possesses very good performance and decent fuel economy for the class. Kia does need to work on smoothing out the transition from electric to hybrid power though. There is one problem for the Kia Optima Hybrid, the competition. On paper, the Toyota Camry Hybrid and the new Ford Fusion Hybrid best the Optima Hybrid in fuel economy ratings. The only thing Kia can fight back with is the amount of equipment that you can get for the price. The Optima Hybrid I had in for review cost $32,500.00. But for that price, I got heated and cooled front seats, heated back seats, panoramic sunroof, navigation, a premium sound system, and much more. To try and match the equipment level of the Optima Hybrid, you’ll have to spend a few thousand more on the competitors. Is that enough though to convince someone to check it out? If you’re looking for a midsize hybrid to stand out, check out the Optima Hybrid. If fuel economy is a concern, look at the Camry and Fusion. Disclaimer: Kia provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline. Year - 2012 Make – Kia Model – Optima Hybrid Trim – N/A Engine – 2.4L Four-Cylinder, Electric Motor Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – (Gas) 166 HP (@ 6,000 RPM) , (Electric) 40.2 HP (@ 1,400 to 6,000 RPM), (Combined) 206 HP Torque @ RPM – (Gas) 154 lb-ft (@ 4,250 RPM), (Electric) 166 HP (@ 0 - 1,400 RPM), (Combined) 195 lb-ft Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 34/39/36 Curb Weight – 3,490 lbs Location of Manufacture – Hwasung, South Korea Base Price - $25,700.00 As Tested Price - $32,500.00 (Includes $750.00 Destination Charge) William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster. View full article
  18. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com September 18, 2012 This week in the Cheers & Gears Detroit garage is the 2012 Nissan cube 1.8S Indigo Limited Edition. The 1.8S is the mid-level model in the cube lineup and comes with a 1.8L inline-four producing 122 HP and 127 lb-ft of torque and can go through either a six-speed manual or Nissan's Xtronic CVT. Our model is equipped with the CVT. Our cube is also equipped with Indigo Limited Edition package which adds keyless entry, push-button start, an upgraded six-speaker sound system with a subwoofer, a five-inch touchscreen, navigation, rear-view camera, unique black and indigo upholstery, and fifteen-inch alloy wheels. That package and few other options brings the as-tested price to $20,975 (Includes $780.00 destination charge). First Impressions so far Really like the blue and the fifteen-inch alloys on the cube I think there is about a quarter-mile of headroom inside Like the way the cube drives, perfect for those who live in a city I'll have more updates as the week goes on. In the meantime, drop your questions and I will do my best to answer them. Update - September 24, 2012 My time with the Nissan cube is coming to close as it will go back tomorrow, and for what it is, its a very good package. The cube provides a surprising amount of space and equipment for the price tag. The cube is also one of those vehicles which actually provides excellent visibility and maneuverability, making it perfect for city or suburban driving. However if you decide to do any driving on the freeway or long-distance with the cube, be prepared for a large amount of wind- and road-noise (mostly due to the shape) and the seats not being real comfortable for the long distance. The cube wasn't built for that in mind. Fuel economy has been really impressing me with an average of 31.5 MPG. If you have any last minute questions on the cube, get them in and I will do my best to answer them. William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  19. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com September 18, 2012 This week in the Cheers & Gears Detroit garage is the 2012 Nissan cube 1.8S Indigo Limited Edition. The 1.8S is the mid-level model in the cube lineup and comes with a 1.8L inline-four producing 122 HP and 127 lb-ft of torque and can go through either a six-speed manual or Nissan's Xtronic CVT. Our model is equipped with the CVT. Our cube is also equipped with Indigo Limited Edition package which adds keyless entry, push-button start, an upgraded six-speaker sound system with a subwoofer, a five-inch touchscreen, navigation, rear-view camera, unique black and indigo upholstery, and fifteen-inch alloy wheels. That package and few other options brings the as-tested price to $20,975 (Includes $780.00 destination charge). First Impressions so far Really like the blue and the fifteen-inch alloys on the cube I think there is about a quarter-mile of headroom inside Like the way the cube drives, perfect for those who live in a city I'll have more updates as the week goes on. In the meantime, drop your questions and I will do my best to answer them. Update - September 24, 2012 My time with the Nissan cube is coming to close as it will go back tomorrow, and for what it is, its a very good package. The cube provides a surprising amount of space and equipment for the price tag. The cube is also one of those vehicles which actually provides excellent visibility and maneuverability, making it perfect for city or suburban driving. However if you decide to do any driving on the freeway or long-distance with the cube, be prepared for a large amount of wind- and road-noise (mostly due to the shape) and the seats not being real comfortable for the long distance. The cube wasn't built for that in mind. Fuel economy has been really impressing me with an average of 31.5 MPG. If you have any last minute questions on the cube, get them in and I will do my best to answer them. William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster. View full article
  20. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com August 30, 2012 If there was an automaker who closely followed Mitsubishi’s story in the U.S. to a degree, that automaker would be Suzuki. Suzuki, much like Mitsubishi was a rising star in the 1990’s and early 2000’s with vehicles like the Swift, Sidekick, Grand Vitara, XL7, and SX4. However in the late 2000’s, Suzuki began a fast decline into obscurity. Magazine and television ads began to disappear slowly, dealers either closed up shop or turned to something else, and people began to think that Suzuki was gone. Well, Suzuki is still around and building vehicles for the U.S. The brand’s newest vehicle, the Kizashi, is its second-take on a midsize sedan. Suzuki’s first attempt was the 2004 Verona. A rebadged Daewoo Magnus, the Verona was very forgettable and was pulled off the market. Since going on sale in 2010, the Kizashi has received favorable reviews in the automotive press as it is often lauded as one of the best sedans currently on sale. The buying public on the other hand doesn’t even know it exists. Does the Kizashi deserve more attention or should it stay in obscurity just like its brand? Next: The Outside Look Exterior Designers for the Kizashi went for a muscular, bold look. That’s evident when you look at the Kizashi ‘s front end where there is a sculpted hood, two-tiered front grille arrangement, a set of projector headlights, and flared front fenders. The side has a set of body skirts along the doors and a set of eighteen-inch sport wheels, which are standard equipment on the Sport GTS model, which we evaluated. Around the back, Suzuki’s designers did their own interpretation of the “Bangle-Butt” and it has actually worked. Other design cues for the back include an integrated spoiler with stoplight on the trunk lid and a set of chrome surrounds hiding the exhausts. Suzuki mostly pulls off the look on the Kizashi except for one item: ahead of the front wheels, Suzuki slapped on some bright orange reflectors for the turn signals. This addition doesn’t make sense for a vehicle design in the 21st century. Next: Come On In Interior The Kizashi’s interior is really impressive for a Suzuki. That might sound like an underhanded compliment, but anyone who has sat in past Suzuki vehicles knows, the interiors left a lot to desire. Materials used throughout are a combination of soft- and hard-touch plastics, and metal trim. Build quality is very good with no apparent gaps or separation of materials on the 14,000 mile example we had for review. The Sport GTS model comes with set a of bolstered, cloth bucket seats for the front passengers. The driver gets a power seat with ten-way adjustment, lumbar, and memory function. Finding a comfortable position in the seat does take some time, but you can find one. Back seat passengers will find a cloth-covered bench seat and a surprising amount of head and legroom. The Kizashi Sport GTS comes well equipped for the pricetag. Standard equipment includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, trip computer, dual-zone climate controls, Rockford Fosgate sound system, USB input for your MP3 player, sunroof, and 60/40 folding rear seats. The only options on our Kizashi were a trunk mat, floor mats, first aid kit, and a Bluetooth system. Next: Under the Hood Powertrain All Kizashi models come with one engine choice; a 2.4L inline-four producing either 185 HP (@ 6500 RPM) if you go for the six-speed manual or 180 HP (@ 6000 RPM) if you pick the CVT. Torque is 170 lb-ft (@ 4000 RPM), no matter the transmission choice. You also have the choice between front-wheel and all-wheel drive. If you do go for all-wheel drive like ours, you only transmission choice is the CVT. Leaving from a stop, the 2.4L is initially sluggish before it starts to build some speed at a quick rate, as the engine revs up. If you need to make a pass or merge onto a freeway, the 2.4 is able to perform without a sweat. The CVT makes sure to keep you in the power as best as it can and is very smooth. Also, Suzuki fitted steering wheel paddles to the Sport GTS to mimic a six-speed transmission. The paddles do work very well, giving you the feeling of total control when taking the Kizashi for an enthusiastic drive. The Kizashi’s AWD system is unique as you can turn the system on and off via a button next to the steering wheel. The only way you know when you have engaged the system is an AWD light turns on in the instrument cluster. The system will seamlessly kick on if the Kizashi has a loss of traction or if you decide to be aggressive. The sacrifice you make for the sure footedness of all-wheel drive is less than ideal fuel economy rating. The EPA rates the Kizashi Sport GTS AWD EPA at 22 City/29 Highway/25 Combined. This comes from the extra 292 lbs the AWD system adds to the Kizashi’s weight. Average for the week was 24.5 MPG. On the highway, the Kizashi did much better, recording an average of 32.3 MPG. Next: The Drive Ride & Drive The Kizashi’s suspension is made up of MacPherson struts up front and a five-point multilink setup in the rear. Steering comes in the form of an electric power steering system with a rack and pinion setup. The steering feels like something you would find in a sports car. Each turn of the Kizashi’s steering wheel is directly sent to front tires. In turn, the system provides a surprising amount of road feel for the driver. This combination makes the Kizashi a joy to drive on curvy roads. During normal driving, the Kizashi does a good job of proving a mostly comfortable and stable ride for passengers. Driving on rough surfaces, the Kizashi’s suspension does a decent job of minimizing the impacts. Noise from engine is mostly well-muted. The same cannot be said for road and wind noise as both are somewhat existent, but not to the point where you carry some ear plugs. Next: The Verdict Verdict I wasn’t quite sure how I would feel at the time of the Kizashi’s departure, after the week-long evaluation. When that time came, I felt surprised and amazed at Suzuki’s second mid-size effort. The muscular and sporty exterior hides one of the best suspension and all-wheel-drive setups in the class. Plus, the Kizashi has one of the better CVTs in the industry and comes with a nicely-equipped interior. However, the Kizashi isn’t the most fuel-efficient vehicle, despite being one of the smallest and lightest in its class. Plus, the 2.4L is very sluggish on initial acceleration. Those problems pale in comparison to the biggest drawback the Kizashi has, Suzuki itself. As I eluded in the introduction, Suzuki in the U.S. isn’t doing so hot. In a report back in April, we wondered whether the brand was preparing to the North American market leave because of certain developments. Some of those included cutting auto show appearances, saying goodbye to the top U.S. product planning and marketing executive, and suspending social media outreach. Since that report, the news for Suzuki hasn’t got any better. For 2012, sales are still down and the company is focusing on controlling its expenses. Add to the lack advertising and the silence any new products coming to U.S., and it’s easy to see why everyone is wondering what the future holds for Suzuki in the U.S. That leaves me in a tough spot with the Kizashi since I really liked it and would recommend it to anyone. However, the uncertainty of Suzuki in the States gives me some hesitation on recommending it. If you’re shopping for a new midsize sedan, you do at least need to give the Kizashi a chance. Vehicles like the Kizashi only appear once in a while and might be not be long before this disappears. Cheers: Exterior Styling Interior Equipment Interior Space CVT AWD System Handling during sporty and normal driving Jeers: Reflectors on front fenders Fuel economy of the AWD Model Suzuki going dark on everything Year - 2012 Make – Suzuki Model – Kizashi Trim – Sport GTS Engine – 2.4L Inline-Four Driveline – All Wheel Drive, CVT Horsepower @ RPM - 180 @ 6000 Torque @ RPM – 170 @ 4000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined – 22/29/25 Curb Weight – 3533 lbs Location of Manufacture – Sagara, Japan Base Price - $25,899.00 As Tested Price - $26,404.00* (Doesn’t include Destination Charge) William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  21. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com August 30, 2012 If there was an automaker who closely followed Mitsubishi’s story in the U.S. to a degree, that automaker would be Suzuki. Suzuki, much like Mitsubishi was a rising star in the 1990’s and early 2000’s with vehicles like the Swift, Sidekick, Grand Vitara, XL7, and SX4. However in the late 2000’s, Suzuki began a fast decline into obscurity. Magazine and television ads began to disappear slowly, dealers either closed up shop or turned to something else, and people began to think that Suzuki was gone. Well, Suzuki is still around and building vehicles for the U.S. The brand’s newest vehicle, the Kizashi, is its second-take on a midsize sedan. Suzuki’s first attempt was the 2004 Verona. A rebadged Daewoo Magnus, the Verona was very forgettable and was pulled off the market. Since going on sale in 2010, the Kizashi has received favorable reviews in the automotive press as it is often lauded as one of the best sedans currently on sale. The buying public on the other hand doesn’t even know it exists. Does the Kizashi deserve more attention or should it stay in obscurity just like its brand? Next: The Outside Look Exterior Designers for the Kizashi went for a muscular, bold look. That’s evident when you look at the Kizashi ‘s front end where there is a sculpted hood, two-tiered front grille arrangement, a set of projector headlights, and flared front fenders. The side has a set of body skirts along the doors and a set of eighteen-inch sport wheels, which are standard equipment on the Sport GTS model, which we evaluated. Around the back, Suzuki’s designers did their own interpretation of the “Bangle-Butt” and it has actually worked. Other design cues for the back include an integrated spoiler with stoplight on the trunk lid and a set of chrome surrounds hiding the exhausts. Suzuki mostly pulls off the look on the Kizashi except for one item: ahead of the front wheels, Suzuki slapped on some bright orange reflectors for the turn signals. This addition doesn’t make sense for a vehicle design in the 21st century. Next: Come On In Interior The Kizashi’s interior is really impressive for a Suzuki. That might sound like an underhanded compliment, but anyone who has sat in past Suzuki vehicles knows, the interiors left a lot to desire. Materials used throughout are a combination of soft- and hard-touch plastics, and metal trim. Build quality is very good with no apparent gaps or separation of materials on the 14,000 mile example we had for review. The Sport GTS model comes with set a of bolstered, cloth bucket seats for the front passengers. The driver gets a power seat with ten-way adjustment, lumbar, and memory function. Finding a comfortable position in the seat does take some time, but you can find one. Back seat passengers will find a cloth-covered bench seat and a surprising amount of head and legroom. The Kizashi Sport GTS comes well equipped for the pricetag. Standard equipment includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, trip computer, dual-zone climate controls, Rockford Fosgate sound system, USB input for your MP3 player, sunroof, and 60/40 folding rear seats. The only options on our Kizashi were a trunk mat, floor mats, first aid kit, and a Bluetooth system. Next: Under the Hood Powertrain All Kizashi models come with one engine choice; a 2.4L inline-four producing either 185 HP (@ 6500 RPM) if you go for the six-speed manual or 180 HP (@ 6000 RPM) if you pick the CVT. Torque is 170 lb-ft (@ 4000 RPM), no matter the transmission choice. You also have the choice between front-wheel and all-wheel drive. If you do go for all-wheel drive like ours, you only transmission choice is the CVT. Leaving from a stop, the 2.4L is initially sluggish before it starts to build some speed at a quick rate, as the engine revs up. If you need to make a pass or merge onto a freeway, the 2.4 is able to perform without a sweat. The CVT makes sure to keep you in the power as best as it can and is very smooth. Also, Suzuki fitted steering wheel paddles to the Sport GTS to mimic a six-speed transmission. The paddles do work very well, giving you the feeling of total control when taking the Kizashi for an enthusiastic drive. The Kizashi’s AWD system is unique as you can turn the system on and off via a button next to the steering wheel. The only way you know when you have engaged the system is an AWD light turns on in the instrument cluster. The system will seamlessly kick on if the Kizashi has a loss of traction or if you decide to be aggressive. The sacrifice you make for the sure footedness of all-wheel drive is less than ideal fuel economy rating. The EPA rates the Kizashi Sport GTS AWD EPA at 22 City/29 Highway/25 Combined. This comes from the extra 292 lbs the AWD system adds to the Kizashi’s weight. Average for the week was 24.5 MPG. On the highway, the Kizashi did much better, recording an average of 32.3 MPG. Next: The Drive Ride & Drive The Kizashi’s suspension is made up of MacPherson struts up front and a five-point multilink setup in the rear. Steering comes in the form of an electric power steering system with a rack and pinion setup. The steering feels like something you would find in a sports car. Each turn of the Kizashi’s steering wheel is directly sent to front tires. In turn, the system provides a surprising amount of road feel for the driver. This combination makes the Kizashi a joy to drive on curvy roads. During normal driving, the Kizashi does a good job of proving a mostly comfortable and stable ride for passengers. Driving on rough surfaces, the Kizashi’s suspension does a decent job of minimizing the impacts. Noise from engine is mostly well-muted. The same cannot be said for road and wind noise as both are somewhat existent, but not to the point where you carry some ear plugs. Next: The Verdict Verdict I wasn’t quite sure how I would feel at the time of the Kizashi’s departure, after the week-long evaluation. When that time came, I felt surprised and amazed at Suzuki’s second mid-size effort. The muscular and sporty exterior hides one of the best suspension and all-wheel-drive setups in the class. Plus, the Kizashi has one of the better CVTs in the industry and comes with a nicely-equipped interior. However, the Kizashi isn’t the most fuel-efficient vehicle, despite being one of the smallest and lightest in its class. Plus, the 2.4L is very sluggish on initial acceleration. Those problems pale in comparison to the biggest drawback the Kizashi has, Suzuki itself. As I eluded in the introduction, Suzuki in the U.S. isn’t doing so hot. In a report back in April, we wondered whether the brand was preparing to the North American market leave because of certain developments. Some of those included cutting auto show appearances, saying goodbye to the top U.S. product planning and marketing executive, and suspending social media outreach. Since that report, the news for Suzuki hasn’t got any better. For 2012, sales are still down and the company is focusing on controlling its expenses. Add to the lack advertising and the silence any new products coming to U.S., and it’s easy to see why everyone is wondering what the future holds for Suzuki in the U.S. That leaves me in a tough spot with the Kizashi since I really liked it and would recommend it to anyone. However, the uncertainty of Suzuki in the States gives me some hesitation on recommending it. If you’re shopping for a new midsize sedan, you do at least need to give the Kizashi a chance. Vehicles like the Kizashi only appear once in a while and might be not be long before this disappears. Cheers: Exterior Styling Interior Equipment Interior Space CVT AWD System Handling during sporty and normal driving Jeers: Reflectors on front fenders Fuel economy of the AWD Model Suzuki going dark on everything Year - 2012 Make – Suzuki Model – Kizashi Trim – Sport GTS Engine – 2.4L Inline-Four Driveline – All Wheel Drive, CVT Horsepower @ RPM - 180 @ 6000 Torque @ RPM – 170 @ 4000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined – 22/29/25 Curb Weight – 3533 lbs Location of Manufacture – Sagara, Japan Base Price - $25,899.00 As Tested Price - $26,404.00* (Doesn’t include Destination Charge) William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster. View full article
  22. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com September 6, 2012 Mazda is not in the best of health. The past year has been a struggle for the ’zoom-zoom’ brand; Mazda’s growing reliance on their plants in Japan despite other automakers leaving to other places due to the rising yen, leaving the production line at the Flat Rock, MI plant, laying off workers at their U.S. headquarters, and other troubling news, all contribute to a disconcerting future. The company is banking on two items that will hopefully begin to turn their fortunes around. The first item is the new SKYACTIV technology which is claimed to improve fuel- efficiency while keeping the ‘zoom-zoom’ the brand is known for. The second item is Mazda’s new compact crossover, the CX-5. The new crossover will be featuring the full suite of SKYACTIV and new design language that will be appearing on future Mazdas. Can SKYACTIV deliver on its promises? Is the new CX-5 the vehicle to begin turning the tide? Next: Outside Exterior The CX-5 is Mazda’s first production model to use their new Kodo ("Soul of Motion") design language. Overall, the design is almost a carbon copy of the Minagi concept shown at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show. Up front, the most prominent design cue on the CX-5 is the large, five-point grille. This takes the place of the goofy smile grille that is prominent on many Mazda vehicles. Sitting on either side of the grille are a set of optional HID headlights (come as part of the $1,185 tech package). Along the side, Mazda has extended the line running along the front fenders partway into the front doors. Mazda also has a distinct character line running along near the bottom of doors, looking like a wave. The back end has a rounded shape, which is partly hidden by a spoiler sitting on top. "What is key is that in any market we operate in, Mazda's market share is small. Our customers are not people who go with the flow, but who make their own decisions and want something distinctive. That gives me lots of freedom," said Mazda’s chief designer, Akira Tamatani when asked about the design of the new Mazda CX-5 and 6. We think Mazda has succeeded on making the CX-5 very distinctive from its counterparts. Next: Inside Interior Distinctive isn’t the first or last or any word I would use to describe the interior of the CX-5. The interior design is very plain and the use of black throughout the interior can make you feel somewhat depressed. I wished Mazda could have taken some of Kodo design cues from the exterior or use some other color in the interior. Otherwise, the interior materials are the class average. Fit and finish is excellent. The CX-5 Touring comes with standard cloth seats. The seats provide enough adjustments to find a comfortable position, and have enough bolstering to keep you and your passengers in the seat whenever you decide to go for a run. Backseat passengers will find enough room for their head and legs. However, if you decide to take the CX-5 on a long trip, be prepared to pack a pillow or two. The seats don’t have enough padding for long distances and you will be aching when you get to your destination. As for standard equipment, the CX-5 Touring comes pretty loaded. You get keyless entry and ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 5.8-inch color display for the radio, and AM/FM/HD/CD/Aux/USB/Bluetooth audio system. Mazda has done something interesting with the optional navigation system on the CX-5. Like Chrysler, Mazda has turned to a navigation company, TomTom in this case, to provide maps and data. The system worked perfectly and was able to get me to wherever I needed without any problems. My only wish is that Mazda could have made the screen a little larger than 5.8-inches. Next: Under the Hood Powertrain Before we go into the CX-5’s powertrain, it would be a perfect time to explain what the big deal is with Mazda’s SKYACTIV technology. SKYACTIV is Mazda’s umbrella term for their new technology used in its new powertrains and weight-loss (we’ll dive into that when we get to the ride and drive section), which is aimed to improve fuel economy while keeping the zoom-zoomness. The first half of the SKYACTIV tech appeared this year in the compact Mazda3; the 2.0L SKYACTIV-G four-cylinder and the SKYACTIV-Drive six-speed automatic. Mazda put a lot of engineering effort into the 2.0L SKYACTIV-G to make sure they met their goals of performance and fuel economy. The 2.0L includes direct-injection, a special exhaust manifold which allows the engine compression to be at an impressive 13:1 ratio, and a unique piston design. Those efforts led to the 2.0L SKYACTIV-G to produce 155 HP (@ 6000 RPM) and 150 lb-ft of torque (@ 4000 RPM). A lot of work also went into the SKYACTIV-Drive six-speed automatic. When leaving from a stop, the transmission uses a torque converter to get you going very smoothly. Once the CX-5 reaches a certain speed, the torque converter locks up and the transmission switches to a clutch pack, which makes every makes every shift happen quickly. This combination allows the CX-5 to return some impressive fuel economy numbers. The EPA puts the CX-5 Touring with front-wheel drive at 26 City/32 Highway/29 combined. All-wheel drive drops fuel economy to 25 City/31 Highway/28 combined. Does the SKYACTIV powertain deliver on its promises? Almost. The 2.0L SKYACTIV-G doesn’t have enough low-end torque to get you on your way from a stop as quick as you would like. There is a SKYACTIV Diesel engine coming and a rumored 2.5L SKYACTIV-G being prepared for next model year which could solve this problem. Plus, the six-speed automatic is slow to react whenever you need it needs to downshift, causing the you to either push further down on the accelerator or throwing the transmission into the manual mode and downshift yourself. Otherwise, the SKYACTIV powertrain is an amazing feat of engineering. Once you’re on your way, the 2.0L keeps up with traffic very well, whether in the city or on the highway. The six-speed automatic delivered smooth and quick shifts. Then there’s the fuel economy. On the first day I had the CX-5, I got 29 MPG driving on suburban roads. Not bad for a crossover I thought. The rest of the time, the CX-5 and I went to Northern Michigan for vacation where it averaged an impressive 37 MPG on rural and highway roads. Next: On the Road Ride & Drive We explained one half of Mazda’s SkyActiv technologies, the powertrain in the last section. Now it’s onto the other half of the SkyActiv, the weight-loss. The CX-5 is the first Mazda vehicle to be built from the ground up with this idea. The body is this first application of a new lightweight steel which allows the vehicle to shed weight while retaining rigidity of regular steel. Mazda also cut weight wherever they could, right down to the bolts used in the vehicle. This weight-loss not only helps in the fuel economy, it also makes the CX-5 more agile when driving enthusiastically. Along with the light-weight mantra, Mazda uses independent front and rear suspension, and an electric rack-and-pinion steering system. This combination makes the CX-5 a joy to drive on your favorite road. The suspension reduces body roll and keeps the CX-5 stable when corning. The steering is weighted just right and provides the same feel and accuracy like you would find on smaller Mazdas. When taking the CX-5 on the test loop I put all of the vehicles in for evaluation, I had to keep reminding myself; this is a crossover, not a sports car. As for driving around to get to work or other places, the CX-5 provides a composed and well-damped ride on smooth surfaces. On rough roads, the CX-5 could use a little bit more damping as some bumps and jostles make their way inside. On the highway, there is minimal wind, road, and engine noise. Visibility is good in the front and side. Rear visibility is poor due to the large d-pillars, but Mazda does make a rear-view camera standard on the Touring model. Next: The Verdict Verdict Mazda deserves a pat on the back with the new CX-5 and SKYACTIV. The SKYACTIV technology almost delivers on its promise of delivering performance and fuel economy in one package. The CX-5 is one of the best driving and best looking small crossovers on the market. Combine the two together and what you get is one very good crossover. There are some faults to CX-5 though. The interior is very plain when compared to the exterior and the seats could use a little bit more padding. Also, the 2.0L SKYACTIV-G engine needs a bit more oomph on the low-end and the six-speed automatic needs to be quicker on the downshifts on certain situations. Mazda put a tall order on the CX-5 and SKYACTIV to begin reversing their poor fortunes. Judging from the sales charts, it looks like Mazda is starting to slowly turn around to a better time. Disclaimer: Mazda provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gas Cheers Distinctive Exterior Styling Impressive Fuel Economy Loads of standard equipment Smooth and quick automatic transmission Handling in sporty and normal driving Light curb weight Back seat space Jeers 2.0L lacking low-end oomph Six-speed slowness to downshift in certain situations Interior lacking some pizzaz Seats lacking in padding Year - 2013 Make – Mazda Model – CX-5 Trim – Touring Engine – SKYACTIV-G 2.0LFour-Cylinder Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, Six-speed automatic Horsepower @ RPM - 155 @ 6000 Torque @ RPM – 150 @ 4000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined – 26/32/29 Curb Weight – 3272 lbs Location of Manufacture – Hiroshima, Japan Base Price - $23,895.00 As Tested Price - $27,005.00* (Includes $795 Destination Charge) William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  23. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com September 6, 2012 Mazda is not in the best of health. The past year has been a struggle for the ’zoom-zoom’ brand; Mazda’s growing reliance on their plants in Japan despite other automakers leaving to other places due to the rising yen, leaving the production line at the Flat Rock, MI plant, laying off workers at their U.S. headquarters, and other troubling news, all contribute to a disconcerting future. The company is banking on two items that will hopefully begin to turn their fortunes around. The first item is the new SKYACTIV technology which is claimed to improve fuel- efficiency while keeping the ‘zoom-zoom’ the brand is known for. The second item is Mazda’s new compact crossover, the CX-5. The new crossover will be featuring the full suite of SKYACTIV and new design language that will be appearing on future Mazdas. Can SKYACTIV deliver on its promises? Is the new CX-5 the vehicle to begin turning the tide? Next: Outside Exterior The CX-5 is Mazda’s first production model to use their new Kodo ("Soul of Motion") design language. Overall, the design is almost a carbon copy of the Minagi concept shown at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show. Up front, the most prominent design cue on the CX-5 is the large, five-point grille. This takes the place of the goofy smile grille that is prominent on many Mazda vehicles. Sitting on either side of the grille are a set of optional HID headlights (come as part of the $1,185 tech package). Along the side, Mazda has extended the line running along the front fenders partway into the front doors. Mazda also has a distinct character line running along near the bottom of doors, looking like a wave. The back end has a rounded shape, which is partly hidden by a spoiler sitting on top. "What is key is that in any market we operate in, Mazda's market share is small. Our customers are not people who go with the flow, but who make their own decisions and want something distinctive. That gives me lots of freedom," said Mazda’s chief designer, Akira Tamatani when asked about the design of the new Mazda CX-5 and 6. We think Mazda has succeeded on making the CX-5 very distinctive from its counterparts. Next: Inside Interior Distinctive isn’t the first or last or any word I would use to describe the interior of the CX-5. The interior design is very plain and the use of black throughout the interior can make you feel somewhat depressed. I wished Mazda could have taken some of Kodo design cues from the exterior or use some other color in the interior. Otherwise, the interior materials are the class average. Fit and finish is excellent. The CX-5 Touring comes with standard cloth seats. The seats provide enough adjustments to find a comfortable position, and have enough bolstering to keep you and your passengers in the seat whenever you decide to go for a run. Backseat passengers will find enough room for their head and legs. However, if you decide to take the CX-5 on a long trip, be prepared to pack a pillow or two. The seats don’t have enough padding for long distances and you will be aching when you get to your destination. As for standard equipment, the CX-5 Touring comes pretty loaded. You get keyless entry and ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 5.8-inch color display for the radio, and AM/FM/HD/CD/Aux/USB/Bluetooth audio system. Mazda has done something interesting with the optional navigation system on the CX-5. Like Chrysler, Mazda has turned to a navigation company, TomTom in this case, to provide maps and data. The system worked perfectly and was able to get me to wherever I needed without any problems. My only wish is that Mazda could have made the screen a little larger than 5.8-inches. Next: Under the Hood Powertrain Before we go into the CX-5’s powertrain, it would be a perfect time to explain what the big deal is with Mazda’s SKYACTIV technology. SKYACTIV is Mazda’s umbrella term for their new technology used in its new powertrains and weight-loss (we’ll dive into that when we get to the ride and drive section), which is aimed to improve fuel economy while keeping the zoom-zoomness. The first half of the SKYACTIV tech appeared this year in the compact Mazda3; the 2.0L SKYACTIV-G four-cylinder and the SKYACTIV-Drive six-speed automatic. Mazda put a lot of engineering effort into the 2.0L SKYACTIV-G to make sure they met their goals of performance and fuel economy. The 2.0L includes direct-injection, a special exhaust manifold which allows the engine compression to be at an impressive 13:1 ratio, and a unique piston design. Those efforts led to the 2.0L SKYACTIV-G to produce 155 HP (@ 6000 RPM) and 150 lb-ft of torque (@ 4000 RPM). A lot of work also went into the SKYACTIV-Drive six-speed automatic. When leaving from a stop, the transmission uses a torque converter to get you going very smoothly. Once the CX-5 reaches a certain speed, the torque converter locks up and the transmission switches to a clutch pack, which makes every makes every shift happen quickly. This combination allows the CX-5 to return some impressive fuel economy numbers. The EPA puts the CX-5 Touring with front-wheel drive at 26 City/32 Highway/29 combined. All-wheel drive drops fuel economy to 25 City/31 Highway/28 combined. Does the SKYACTIV powertain deliver on its promises? Almost. The 2.0L SKYACTIV-G doesn’t have enough low-end torque to get you on your way from a stop as quick as you would like. There is a SKYACTIV Diesel engine coming and a rumored 2.5L SKYACTIV-G being prepared for next model year which could solve this problem. Plus, the six-speed automatic is slow to react whenever you need it needs to downshift, causing the you to either push further down on the accelerator or throwing the transmission into the manual mode and downshift yourself. Otherwise, the SKYACTIV powertrain is an amazing feat of engineering. Once you’re on your way, the 2.0L keeps up with traffic very well, whether in the city or on the highway. The six-speed automatic delivered smooth and quick shifts. Then there’s the fuel economy. On the first day I had the CX-5, I got 29 MPG driving on suburban roads. Not bad for a crossover I thought. The rest of the time, the CX-5 and I went to Northern Michigan for vacation where it averaged an impressive 37 MPG on rural and highway roads. Next: On the Road Ride & Drive We explained one half of Mazda’s SkyActiv technologies, the powertrain in the last section. Now it’s onto the other half of the SkyActiv, the weight-loss. The CX-5 is the first Mazda vehicle to be built from the ground up with this idea. The body is this first application of a new lightweight steel which allows the vehicle to shed weight while retaining rigidity of regular steel. Mazda also cut weight wherever they could, right down to the bolts used in the vehicle. This weight-loss not only helps in the fuel economy, it also makes the CX-5 more agile when driving enthusiastically. Along with the light-weight mantra, Mazda uses independent front and rear suspension, and an electric rack-and-pinion steering system. This combination makes the CX-5 a joy to drive on your favorite road. The suspension reduces body roll and keeps the CX-5 stable when corning. The steering is weighted just right and provides the same feel and accuracy like you would find on smaller Mazdas. When taking the CX-5 on the test loop I put all of the vehicles in for evaluation, I had to keep reminding myself; this is a crossover, not a sports car. As for driving around to get to work or other places, the CX-5 provides a composed and well-damped ride on smooth surfaces. On rough roads, the CX-5 could use a little bit more damping as some bumps and jostles make their way inside. On the highway, there is minimal wind, road, and engine noise. Visibility is good in the front and side. Rear visibility is poor due to the large d-pillars, but Mazda does make a rear-view camera standard on the Touring model. Next: The Verdict Verdict Mazda deserves a pat on the back with the new CX-5 and SKYACTIV. The SKYACTIV technology almost delivers on its promise of delivering performance and fuel economy in one package. The CX-5 is one of the best driving and best looking small crossovers on the market. Combine the two together and what you get is one very good crossover. There are some faults to CX-5 though. The interior is very plain when compared to the exterior and the seats could use a little bit more padding. Also, the 2.0L SKYACTIV-G engine needs a bit more oomph on the low-end and the six-speed automatic needs to be quicker on the downshifts on certain situations. Mazda put a tall order on the CX-5 and SKYACTIV to begin reversing their poor fortunes. Judging from the sales charts, it looks like Mazda is starting to slowly turn around to a better time. Disclaimer: Mazda provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gas Cheers Distinctive Exterior Styling Impressive Fuel Economy Loads of standard equipment Smooth and quick automatic transmission Handling in sporty and normal driving Light curb weight Back seat space Jeers 2.0L lacking low-end oomph Six-speed slowness to downshift in certain situations Interior lacking some pizzaz Seats lacking in padding Year - 2013 Make – Mazda Model – CX-5 Trim – Touring Engine – SKYACTIV-G 2.0LFour-Cylinder Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, Six-speed automatic Horsepower @ RPM - 155 @ 6000 Torque @ RPM – 150 @ 4000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined – 26/32/29 Curb Weight – 3272 lbs Location of Manufacture – Hiroshima, Japan Base Price - $23,895.00 As Tested Price - $27,005.00* (Includes $795 Destination Charge) William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster. View full article
  24. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com September 4, 2012 Hybrid vehicles usually fall into two completely different categories. The first category is filled with vehicles whose main purpose to use a hybrid powertrain is to eek out every drop of gas, which typically means they lack the fun to drive factor. The second category is the opposite; vehicles which use their hybrid powertrain, using a smaller engine, to produce the power and fuel economy of a larger engine. There are a few automakers who have figured out how to balance these polar opposites with a hybrid powetrain. The latest automaker who thinks it has got the balance correct is Infiniti with the hybrid version of the M sedan. But did Infiniti get it right? Next: The Outside Exterior The M Hybrid follows the same design doctrine of other M models. The front end of features a long hood that curves downward from the middle and rise back up before sitting next to the front fenders. A large, rectangular chrome grille and a set of projector headlights don the fascia. Around the side, the front and rear wheel wells are pushed out to cover the standard eighteen-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. The roof line slopes down to the trunk where in turn it gradually rises back up to the lip of the trunk lid. The short rear end has a curved trunk lid, a chrome bar hiding the trunk release and rearview camera, and a set of polished exhausts. The overall look of the M Hybrid is very daring and elegant to my eyes. I would put it in the same category as the Jaguar XF and Lexus GS as being my favorite mid-size luxury sedan designs. Next: The Inside Interior The M Hybrid’s interior is an exercise in the details. That’s very evident when you look inside and notice how the metal trim flows along with the leather and wood trim in the dash and door panels. Also, the M Hybrid doesn’t skimp out on the stitched leather, using a good amount on the seats, door panels, and dash. The wood used in this M Hybrid was the optional Japanese White Ash wood trim which has a silver powder finish to make it really stand out. All of these little details make the M Hybrid feel very special. For the front seat passengers, the M Hybrid comes equipped with supportive, powered leather seats. Back seat passengers sit on a very comfortable leather bench seat. Legroom is very good throughout the M Hybrid, while headroom is somewhat tight for backseat passengers due to the sloped roof. Trunk space is also on the tight side, measuring 11.3 cu.ft , due to the large lithium-ion battery pack. Our Infiniti M Hybrid came equipped with two massive option packages. The $3,800 premium package adds a eight-inch touchscreen, hard-drive based Navigation system, 9.3 GB music jukebox, XM NavTraffic and weather, a 10-speaker Bose sound system, Bluetooth audio streaming, climate-controlled front seats, and a heated steering wheel. The other option package on our test vehicle was the $3,350 Deluxe Touring Package which adds the Japanese White Ash wood trim, semi-aniline leather-appointed seats, suede-like headliner, forest air system, power rear sunshade, and a 5.1-channel, 16-speaker Bose sound system. Both packages are very much worth it as they add some needed features for the class and add on to the specialness of the M Hybrid’s interior. Next: Power! Powertrain The heart of the M Hybrid is Infiniti’s Direct Response Hybrid system. The system is made up of a 3.5L all-aluminum V6 producing 302 HP and 258 lb-ft of torque, a 50kW electric motor producing 67 HP and 199 lb-ft of torque, and a lithium-ion battery pack. Total output of the Hybrid system is 360 HP. How the M Hybrid delivers its power depends on the circumstances and how much the battery is charged. Leaving a stop with the battery fully or half charged, the M Hybrid will enter EV mode. Using only the electric motor, the M Hybrid able to sustain speeds in urban areas for a good distance. When the battery gets depleted, the 3.5L V6 seamlessly kicks on. If you need to merge onto a freeway or make a pass, the V6 and electric work together to provide more than enough power to get you through. The seven-speed automatic transmission does a very good job of making sure it is in the right gear as the situation demands. Also, the shifts are very quick and smooth. The M Hybrid also has Infiniti’s Drive Mode which allows the driver to change the throttle response, engine and transmission behavior via a knob in the car. Four settings are available: Snow, Eco, Standard, and Sport. Snow: Softens throttle response even more to reduce wheel spin in snowy conditions Eco: Softens the throttle response to help improve efficiency Standard: Sets throttle response and shifts points to provide a balance between responsiveness and fuel efficiency Sport: Increases throttle response and holds gears longer when driving aggressively Fuel economy for the M Hybrid is rated at 27 City/31 Highway/29 Combined. Our average for the week was 27 MPG, mostly on suburban and rural roads. Next: The Drive Ride & Drive The M Hybrid’s suspension is the same one used on the standard M37 and M56. Double wishbones are used up front and a multi-link setup in the rear, with stabilizer bars at both ends. The only difference between the regular M and the Hybrid is a set double-piston shock absorbers that have been tuned for the M Hybrid. The ride is soft and comfortable, no matter the road surface. Road, wind, and engine noise are kept to a minimum, making the M Hybrid a perfect long drive companion. But what if you want to have a little bit fun? The M Hybrid is a very willing partner. The suspension is very surefooted on curvy roads. Steering is very good, providing good feel and response. One surprise is the M Hybrid’s brakes. Most hybrids exhibit the mushy pedal syndrome, which doesn’t inspire much confidence and could cause you to have a longer braking distance. The M Hybrid differs from this by having a brake pedal that doesn’t feel as mushy, which gives you more confidence and shorter stopping distances. Despite the extra weight and soft suspension tuning, the M Hybrid can be very fun. Visibility for the M Hybrid is good for the front and side. Rear visibility is a little bit tricky due to the smallish rear window. Infiniti has included a rear-view camera as standard equipment, making it a bit easier. Next: The Verdict Verdict So has Infiniti figured out the balance of performance and economy with the M Hybrid? In a word, yes. Infiniti’s Direct Response Hybrid system delivers the same performance as a V8 and delivers some impressive fuel economy numbers. Add in a well-appointed interior and a distinct exterior shape, and the M Hybrid stands on its own. Aside from some rear headroom and trunk space concerns, the M Hybrid is one of the best arguments that choosing a hybrid doesn't mean you have to choose more power or better fuel economy; you can have both in perfect harmony. Disclaimer: Infiniti provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gas Cheers Exterior Design Interior Appointments Powertrain Fuel Economy Smooth Ride Handling Jeers Rear Headroom Trunk Space Year - 2012 Make – Infiniti Model – M Trim – M Hybrid Engine – 3.5L V6, 50 kW Electric Motor Driveline – Rear Wheel Drive, Seven-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM - 302 @ 6800 (V6), 67 @ 1770 (Electric Motor), 360 HP (Total Outout) Torque @ RPM – 258 @ 5500 (V6), 199 @ 1770 (Electric Motor) Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 27/31/29 Curb Weight – 4129 lbs Location of Manufacture – Tochigi, Japan Base Price - $53,700.00 As Tested Price - $61,745.00 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge) William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  25. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com September 4, 2012 Hybrid vehicles usually fall into two completely different categories. The first category is filled with vehicles whose main purpose to use a hybrid powertrain is to eek out every drop of gas, which typically means they lack the fun to drive factor. The second category is the opposite; vehicles which use their hybrid powertrain, using a smaller engine, to produce the power and fuel economy of a larger engine. There are a few automakers who have figured out how to balance these polar opposites with a hybrid powetrain. The latest automaker who thinks it has got the balance correct is Infiniti with the hybrid version of the M sedan. But did Infiniti get it right? Next: The Outside Exterior The M Hybrid follows the same design doctrine of other M models. The front end of features a long hood that curves downward from the middle and rise back up before sitting next to the front fenders. A large, rectangular chrome grille and a set of projector headlights don the fascia. Around the side, the front and rear wheel wells are pushed out to cover the standard eighteen-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. The roof line slopes down to the trunk where in turn it gradually rises back up to the lip of the trunk lid. The short rear end has a curved trunk lid, a chrome bar hiding the trunk release and rearview camera, and a set of polished exhausts. The overall look of the M Hybrid is very daring and elegant to my eyes. I would put it in the same category as the Jaguar XF and Lexus GS as being my favorite mid-size luxury sedan designs. Next: The Inside Interior The M Hybrid’s interior is an exercise in the details. That’s very evident when you look inside and notice how the metal trim flows along with the leather and wood trim in the dash and door panels. Also, the M Hybrid doesn’t skimp out on the stitched leather, using a good amount on the seats, door panels, and dash. The wood used in this M Hybrid was the optional Japanese White Ash wood trim which has a silver powder finish to make it really stand out. All of these little details make the M Hybrid feel very special. For the front seat passengers, the M Hybrid comes equipped with supportive, powered leather seats. Back seat passengers sit on a very comfortable leather bench seat. Legroom is very good throughout the M Hybrid, while headroom is somewhat tight for backseat passengers due to the sloped roof. Trunk space is also on the tight side, measuring 11.3 cu.ft , due to the large lithium-ion battery pack. Our Infiniti M Hybrid came equipped with two massive option packages. The $3,800 premium package adds a eight-inch touchscreen, hard-drive based Navigation system, 9.3 GB music jukebox, XM NavTraffic and weather, a 10-speaker Bose sound system, Bluetooth audio streaming, climate-controlled front seats, and a heated steering wheel. The other option package on our test vehicle was the $3,350 Deluxe Touring Package which adds the Japanese White Ash wood trim, semi-aniline leather-appointed seats, suede-like headliner, forest air system, power rear sunshade, and a 5.1-channel, 16-speaker Bose sound system. Both packages are very much worth it as they add some needed features for the class and add on to the specialness of the M Hybrid’s interior. Next: Power! Powertrain The heart of the M Hybrid is Infiniti’s Direct Response Hybrid system. The system is made up of a 3.5L all-aluminum V6 producing 302 HP and 258 lb-ft of torque, a 50kW electric motor producing 67 HP and 199 lb-ft of torque, and a lithium-ion battery pack. Total output of the Hybrid system is 360 HP. How the M Hybrid delivers its power depends on the circumstances and how much the battery is charged. Leaving a stop with the battery fully or half charged, the M Hybrid will enter EV mode. Using only the electric motor, the M Hybrid able to sustain speeds in urban areas for a good distance. When the battery gets depleted, the 3.5L V6 seamlessly kicks on. If you need to merge onto a freeway or make a pass, the V6 and electric work together to provide more than enough power to get you through. The seven-speed automatic transmission does a very good job of making sure it is in the right gear as the situation demands. Also, the shifts are very quick and smooth. The M Hybrid also has Infiniti’s Drive Mode which allows the driver to change the throttle response, engine and transmission behavior via a knob in the car. Four settings are available: Snow, Eco, Standard, and Sport. Snow: Softens throttle response even more to reduce wheel spin in snowy conditions Eco: Softens the throttle response to help improve efficiency Standard: Sets throttle response and shifts points to provide a balance between responsiveness and fuel efficiency Sport: Increases throttle response and holds gears longer when driving aggressively Fuel economy for the M Hybrid is rated at 27 City/31 Highway/29 Combined. Our average for the week was 27 MPG, mostly on suburban and rural roads. Next: The Drive Ride & Drive The M Hybrid’s suspension is the same one used on the standard M37 and M56. Double wishbones are used up front and a multi-link setup in the rear, with stabilizer bars at both ends. The only difference between the regular M and the Hybrid is a set double-piston shock absorbers that have been tuned for the M Hybrid. The ride is soft and comfortable, no matter the road surface. Road, wind, and engine noise are kept to a minimum, making the M Hybrid a perfect long drive companion. But what if you want to have a little bit fun? The M Hybrid is a very willing partner. The suspension is very surefooted on curvy roads. Steering is very good, providing good feel and response. One surprise is the M Hybrid’s brakes. Most hybrids exhibit the mushy pedal syndrome, which doesn’t inspire much confidence and could cause you to have a longer braking distance. The M Hybrid differs from this by having a brake pedal that doesn’t feel as mushy, which gives you more confidence and shorter stopping distances. Despite the extra weight and soft suspension tuning, the M Hybrid can be very fun. Visibility for the M Hybrid is good for the front and side. Rear visibility is a little bit tricky due to the smallish rear window. Infiniti has included a rear-view camera as standard equipment, making it a bit easier. Next: The Verdict Verdict So has Infiniti figured out the balance of performance and economy with the M Hybrid? In a word, yes. Infiniti’s Direct Response Hybrid system delivers the same performance as a V8 and delivers some impressive fuel economy numbers. Add in a well-appointed interior and a distinct exterior shape, and the M Hybrid stands on its own. Aside from some rear headroom and trunk space concerns, the M Hybrid is one of the best arguments that choosing a hybrid doesn't mean you have to choose more power or better fuel economy; you can have both in perfect harmony. Disclaimer: Infiniti provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gas Cheers Exterior Design Interior Appointments Powertrain Fuel Economy Smooth Ride Handling Jeers Rear Headroom Trunk Space Year - 2012 Make – Infiniti Model – M Trim – M Hybrid Engine – 3.5L V6, 50 kW Electric Motor Driveline – Rear Wheel Drive, Seven-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM - 302 @ 6800 (V6), 67 @ 1770 (Electric Motor), 360 HP (Total Outout) Torque @ RPM – 258 @ 5500 (V6), 199 @ 1770 (Electric Motor) Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 27/31/29 Curb Weight – 4129 lbs Location of Manufacture – Tochigi, Japan Base Price - $53,700.00 As Tested Price - $61,745.00 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge) William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster. View full article

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